This post is about ‘going dark’ and why it’s been an important part of my self-development process. A quick usage check in the Urban Dictionary reveals varied interpretations for this term, so let me be clear: I’m using ‘going dark’ to describe those periods of time where I withdraw from view by not posting on social media and/or reducing my real world interactions to the max.
Basically it means disappearing for a while without warning or explanation. This is something I’ve done for years, at first without understanding why. I used to judge myself for this ‘anti-social behaviour’, until I understood how essential it was to maintaining my health and managing my creativity.
The term originated, by the way, in the intelligence community (CIA) to mean going ‘off the radar’ to escape a perceived threat. Among its current slang uses are vanishing from view when dating and not responding to contact requests. So there are obviously circumstances when this behaviour appears desperate or deviant, which is maybe why I found it difficult to accept in myself.
For myself, even before social media, I found the requirement to appear consistent in public challenging. I have been self-employed for twenty years, and part of the reason for that lifestyle choice is that I do not share the rhythms that the majority live by. I need the freedom to work at night, or to swim or watch movies during the day, if such activities serve my creative process. I do not expect myself to be creative, or productive, at the same time each day. I try to achieve a state of flow.
The problem with behaving like this is that people who have never questioned the standard routines around which modern life is based may consider you flaky and unreliable if your modalities of being don’t harmonise with theirs and, for example, they can’t reach you within what they consider to be a reasonable period of time.
The same is often true of social media. In some cases, we learn that a certain frequency of posting is required by ‘the algorithm’ if we want our content to even be seen by its intended recipients. Beyond that, marketing (which is mostly what social media is, in my opinion) demands that we contact our prospects with regularity to build trust and, you guessed it, to appear reliable.
To me, these increasing obligations to behave with expected regularity in multiple arenas are a major cause of stress and illness in the modern world, because we move further and further away from our natural rhythms – of sleeping, sharing, creating, whatever. If, like me, you identify as being introverted and/or sensitive, you may at times experience this expectation to be constantly contactable, responsive and productive as overwhelming and exhausting.
When I reach my threshold of overwhelm in any of these respects, my natural response is to withdraw and to regenerate. That means spending time with myself, writing, considering, dreaming, being – without putting myself under pressure to share that process with the outside world. This is what it means for me to ‘go dark’ – prioritising my inner world over the outer worlds, and taking space to process. Creating space for and listening to my inner wisdom.
I’d be interested to know if going dark is something you experience in your creative process and, if so, how you feel about it. For that reason, I’ve enabled comments for this post.
I mention this now because I realised recently that it’s important for me on Artist of Life to have the space to disappear from time to time, even though blog posts, of course, are expected to be regular 🙂 So unless you read something to the contrary, if I am absent from this blog I am not finished with it…
I may simply have gone dark for a while.