How an unorthodox strategy from productivity management might help not only you, but the whole society.
Our constant exposure to social media and digital communication platforms is overloading us with meaningless input. New pictures, articles and information appear every second on our smartphones, computers and newspapers. Being up to date requires our constant attention and todays media found its ways to get yours. Recently, all this got even worse: Fake news are hiding everywhere among the vast amounts of content we are facing and even the brilliant developers at Facebook and Google don’t know how to deal with it.
The problem of spotting and maybe even “eliminating” fake news goes beyond technology and deep into moral ethics and philosophy. Because after all, it would be some sort of censorship. Sometimes it is obvious what is true and what is a straight up lie. Most of the time though, differences in all sorts of media can be traced back only to the different points of view of the authors / creators. They might report on the exact same issue with the exact same sources, but still return strongly differing opinions.
I guess, you get the point.
And I guess, you feel the same as I do every now and then while pushing through the infinite stream of input: overwhelmed.
Being overwhelmed by the sheer mass of information is one. Questioning its credibility is something completely else. It is the start of a dangerous vicious circle. Who can I trust?
Because the answer to this question lies somewhere between inexistent and unsatisfying let’s just focus on immediate action on our own side. A plan, that works, unconditionally. Assuming you put it the effort and let go.
It might seem like bad etiquette in a political “correct” society, but the answer to your struggles with media overload is disconnection. Call it media fasting, if you want. If you feel overwhelmed by the quantity of information coming in, cut the stream. Eliminate the sources and focus on what is really important: you.
Put practically: Next time you feel it is too much, close all your tabs in the browser, turn off your phone and just sit back for a second. Take a deep breath and ask yourself two question:
What of all this, do I as a person, really need?
What does it help me now, if I get this or that input?
If you are rigid enough you’ll discover that the essential core you really need, is next to nothing. And the benefit you get from it is even less.
As unreasonable as this may sound, you shouldn’t care about most of the things that happen out there in the world. Not because we want to promote ignorance, but simply because we can’t do anything about it. In fact, the latest update on a terror attack somewhere in the world for example, will only clutter your thoughts and even destroy your good mood, because your hands are tied.
“Think of your attention as a bottleneck where all inputs and outputs go through. How can we create meaningful output, if inputs are blocking our limited bandwith?”
The strategy comes from productivity management, because it frees your mind to focus on the really important stuff. And besides helping you to increase your creative output, I believe it can help our society as a whole.
Because if we are honest with ourselves, how much of the content we get is real “information” (i.e. new, revealing facts and knowledge)? Most is gossip, popular press and dramatization of the same things over and over again. We see, what sells.
If you start to “cut the crap” you’ll realize very soon, that your understanding and independent opinion on public matters is actually improving, because you have more time to think about them yourself. Instead of just consuming predetermined mainstream interpretations, you can start analyzing.
To return to a healthy level of media intake consider working along the following four bullet points:
1. For a week or maybe only a few days, eliminate all media consumption. No TV, no medium.com, no Facebook, no newspaper. Enjoy the time off with things you like.
2. Afterwards, review that timespan. How much worse was it, without the input? — Be honest with yourself!
3. Consider, which sources you want to add again and how much time you want to allocate on their consumption. Choose wisely, but don’t hesitate to try different inputs.
4. Re-adjust if the quality of a source changes or you start feeling overwhelmed again.
In one sentence:
Be choosy like a princess with her food when it comes to the inputs of your mind, because our mind and with it our whole life is determined by what we feed it.
And by the way: