RASHMI OBEROI | 30 JULY, 2017
I think we all spend too much time consuming information that we have no intention of taking action on or even caring too deeply about. The list is endless of course: news hour debates, the nightly news cycle of local crimes, the endless stream of Facebook and Twitter updates, celebrity gossip, reality TV shows, Buzz feed articles. It just doesn’t stop.
We live in this age of information overload; where our life is often filled with irrelevant or unnecessary information in an instant. The main problem in all this is that after a while, these information sources start to become normal. I’ve seen people logging onto Facebook ‘on the hour, every hour’ because of the fear of missing out on ‘something/anything’. You end up turning on the news and flicking news channel not because you care about a specific topic, but merely out of habit. I’ve noticed people watching reality TV shows not because they find them particularly interesting but just because that’s what they’ve been doing every Thursday evening!
Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for learning and soaking up new information. After all, education is one of the master keys to the universe. And staying up-to-date on important stories can help shape your worldview and make you a good global citizen. Yes I get all that but I think it is becoming dangerously easy to consume low quality information and convince yourself that it is normal and good, when it isn't helping you live a better life at all.
Now there are things that you often waste time and energy worrying about, but that you have little to no control over. But then there are those that can influence you in your daily life. News stories that concern war and terrorism, the economy and stock prices, celebrity gossip and political scandal can easily soak up your time and energy, but you have virtually no control over those events. Then there are things like getting angry about what someone posted on Facebook, worrying about what other people think about you, or wishing your kids would make better choices (a valid wish, but still outside of your control).
Worrying is a hallmark of reactive people, while focusing is a trait of proactive people. By eliminating or reducing your concerns, you have more time and energy to put towards control. That means you have more mental space to use for creating art, starting a business, having meaningful conversations, or otherwise contributing to the world around you.
On the flip side, the heavy bombardment of information in our society can easily push most of your time and energy into concern if you let it. When you're overdosing on information that you can't act on it's easy to see why people say things like “it's a messed up world out there” or “somebody needs to fix it.” Why make an effort when everything seems out of your control? Time and energy that is wasted consuming is time and energy that can't be spent creating.
It's great to learn new skills, follow story lines that are important to you, and become an engaged and thoughtful citizen, but sadly most consumption doesn't fall into those categories. Most of us (me included) have a handful of information sources that we could eliminate from our lives with no significant impact whatsoever.
News is to the mind what sugar is to the body. News is easy to digest. The media feeds us small bites of trivial matter, titbits that don't really concern our lives and don't require thinking. That is why we experience almost no saturation. Unlike reading books and long magazine articles (which require thinking), we can swallow limitless quantities of news flashes, which are bright-coloured candies for the mind. The problem with most news, gossip, and link-bait titled articles online is that they are filled with surface level information. Your life isn't better off for reading them and you are rarely better informed because of them.
The world definitely doesn't need more people who senselessly digest whatever information is around. What the world needs are people who learn with purpose, who take action on the things that are important to them, and who seek out high quality information as a way to spark creativity — not as an excuse to consume even more.
Not all news is bad. But if we're being honest, there is a lot of information that fills our daily lives, clogs our minds, and prevents us from creating, building, sharing, and experiencing more important things. We can all do without hate messages being circulated, fake propaganda, hoax messages and rumours being spread.
Most of the information you come across in your daily life — the news stories, the social media updates, the television shows — isn't going to change the choices you make. Instead of sitting around and consuming whatever is readily available, challenge yourself to make more conscious choices about what you consume and how you consume it. Do you really need to keep checking social media apps on your phone? Or will you be just fine checking Facebook and Twitter when you get home?
Is it necessary to turn on the same news program every night? Are you living a better life because of watching it? If something isn't benefitting you, then eliminate it. More importantly, take some action on it. It is great to be tech-savvy and up-to-date, but it is better to be smarter and eliminate the negativity, don’t you think?