As humans, we want people to perceive us in the best possible way. With modern tools, particularly social media, we allow others to view small preapproved glimpses of our lives. This is the way things should be – we should have control and security over the things we post. But, like everything that affects our lives, there are consequences we don’t necessarily see when the change first occurs.
Increasingly people focus on getting the right combination of imagery and words to present a glimpse of an experience to others rather than enjoying the full experience for themselves. People are often more focused on getting the right combination of content in the photo, somewhat clever choice of words, and angle/filter of their post than actually experiencing whatever it is they’re doing. This emphasizes the post and nothing more – once the post is done they can move on, looking for the next opportunity to share another somewhat falsified glimpse of their life. It also makes it so that people are not very interested in doing things that they can’t portray in a glimpse. Because of this, portions of what was once common in life no longer happens with any regularity. One of those things that has been relatively lost is doing deep personal studies.
By “personal studies” I don’t necessarily mean studies of oneself, I mean investigations of a particular subject of interest where the person pores over material about the subject and puts forth a good deal of time and thought in order to understand the subject more fully than at the start. Sometimes it can be used to teach or help others, but that isn’t the primary purpose. It doesn’t need to be published anywhere nor is that what most of the effort is put into doing.
Within the past few years I’ve started doing these studies and they’ve been awesome. I first started by writing a daily journal for over a year. Sometime in that period I started a music blog where I simply posted music like I liked once a day. I now maintain a photo blog with the subject of the juxtaposition of human and natural elements as well as a blog posting one of my favorite quotes each day. I also do in depth studies of books and topics found in the Bible nearly every day. Even this blog serves as a platform for me to do smaller, more diverse studies.
These personal studies have each been quite valuable to me, shaping who I am in spite of (and at times in part due to) the fact that no one else sees them. Some of the effects that have stood out to me as I’ve been doing them thus far are as follows:
When I start out one of these studies/blogs I usually have some amount of content in the subject that I am studying at hand. What surprised me was that by simply writing or posting some content dealing with the topic every so often, I became more perceptive and noticed it when going through the rest of my life. When I started to post music daily I started to analyze each song I heard more critically, consider whether or not I wanted it to be the song I posted that day, desired to diversify the music I was posting but still have consistencies across each, and also explore all parts of the subject to broaden my understanding of it and make sure I wasn’t missing out on some big part of it that was awesome. When posting images showing the juxtaposition of human and natural elements, I started to notice just how much I see it in everyday life and how it comes in many different forms. The Bible studies I have been doing have been connecting ideas and ways of living that I didn’t see as connected before (such as love and humility). Posting a quote daily has made me pay more attention to the books I’m reading and the talks I listen to, both in search of good quotes and in an effort to better understand the subject at hand to perhaps make my own.
By writing or posting, it reinforces the thoughts at that time, allows me to look back on my posts later and see a bigger picture, and also enables me to see or create links between posts, ideas, and ways of thinking. In essence it preserves my previous thoughts and feelings but also allows me to get even more out of the subject than I otherwise would be able to have.
Part of making our joy complete is sharing an experience with others. While we may enjoy something such as doing an awesome play in a sport or saying some clever joke, our joy is made complete when we share this experience with others. We love sharing in part because it validates our feelings but also because we want others to experience the same goodness that we’ve found. We’re social creatures who like living and sharing in communities because collectively we can enjoy life more than we can if we were to live it by ourselves.
When I study a subject, I start to look more critically at content dealing with the subject I’m studying. I filter it through the knowledge that I have and see if it fits into the ways of thinking I have or am developing. I weigh the quality of the content to determine if it’s valuable enough to add to my collection of work or thought but also consider other available options. Additionally, by finding and thinking about high quality material dealing with the subject, it improves my ability to determine other high quality material and also my ability to create the same type of thing (though one cannot be very good at something by observing only, they must do and do often).
The subjects that I do personal studies on aren’t usually topics that I deal with for work, they’re other interesting things that I want to learn more about. To me it’s similar to taking an extra elective in school to learn about a subject but with much more free form. At times, they teach me more than a class would because I am not mentally restricted to the points that I will be tested on because there is no test. It’s learning in it’s purest form. It also diversifies my thinking by giving thought to other areas of life that I am not primarily focused on, which has a lot of benefits in of itself.
Because I don’t do these studies for anyone else and nobody really looks at them, I can express myself and my thoughts freely. I don’t have to worry about writing or posting using imperfect language, the wrong tone, or someone misunderstanding what I say. I’m free from the social pressure of doing things that others care about or think is normal and am free from judgement. I can format my posts in a way that only mean something to me or I can work on my ability to convey to others properly by working on my structural form – the choice is completely up to me.
“If the others heard me talking out loud they would think that I am crazy. But since I am not, I do not care.” — Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea
As I’ve mentioned before, doing these studies help me think critically about the subject at hand. It makes it so that I analyze each and every part of content related to the subject. I also look for principles and ways of thinking that can be applied to other content within the subject as well as more general principles that can be applied to other subjects and areas of life.
Doing a personal study doesn’t have to take much time. It can be put on the back seat if you have other more important things to do. It takes just a few minutes a day if you want it to. I highly recommend doing them if you’re wanting to get into a subject that you are not familiar with or want to be more involved in. Why not get started doing one today?