Focus: The Information Epidemic
In today's world, everyone seems distracted. With devices just a reach away, and the events of the world a click away, how do we vaccinate against the virus of ‘too much' and truly free our minds?
Whilst reviewing this piece of writing I checked Instagram ten times, responded to fifteen WhatsApp messages and answered three calls. I checked Microsoft Teams once and switched tracks on YouTube about four times. This probably cost me around forty minutes of productivity which could have been better utilised. So, what is going wrong?
I could have easily reviewed this writing in about fifteen minutes, adding another ten for grammatical checks, but I was interrupted – my focus was interrupted.
Such distractions are not only unproductive, they also create more work, particularly for editing and revisions. (And so, please do flag up any mistakes that can be rectified).
Writing is difficult as it is, but when you also need to maintain attention it makes it even harder. With the growth of digital tools used for writing, information overload can destroy our minds more quickly today than it would have maybe ten years ago.
The Monkey is Taking Over
Between the 1950s and 1970s, the world changed. Mankind (and yes, here I mean everyone, not just men), moved from working in factories, farms, and fields into office blocks. From standing and moving around on our feet all day, we now sit at a chair all day, tapping away at a keyboard, staring at a screen.
Humans weren’t made for this type of lifestyle. We have evolved over millennia to work, not for a sedentary lifestyle. We will only see the true results of people sitting at home throughout the pandemic in the coming years. Obesity, diabetes, and heart disease are bound to increase. We cannot go to the gym either – they’re closed too.
Despite what you may think, and what some people have written in their books, anxiety and depression are on the rise. We live in a world where people are becoming less tolerant of people with opposing views, and more miserable when reality does not meet their expectations. What is the reason for this? Information overload.
Is it not high time we consciously limit our own comforts? We need information but in focus. So what do we do?
Part 1: Social Cleanse
Okay look, I know how difficult it is to stop using social media. We’ve all been there, and we end up bouncing back. So, I’m not even going to tell you to go on a detox. We are going to cleanse.
Follow/Unfollow. Go through your social media following lists and ask yourself these questions. “Is being connected to this individual adding any value to my life?” and “Does this person/page/brand help me grow or does it make me weak?” If the answer to either is not YES, then you need to unfriend and unfollow. You may not agree at first, but in a few weeks’ time email me, and tell me how you feel.
Unfollow ALL news and media. News media (particularly on the likes of Instagram) is becoming more and more short-sighted, inaccurate, and biased. We are partly to blame for this, as we follow these pages based on our limited viewpoints. Most articles are written for clickbait, likes, and shares, without authentic verification, and later apologies if needed. They fight for your clicks, comments, and likes by upsetting you, by poking at those issues that make you burn inside. This is the great game. Addictive cycles of outrage are created, that not only fail to inform you about what you need to know but actually make you more resistant to the real facts. As citizens of Earth, it is our duty to step away from these toxic systems. The first step is simple, unsubscribe/unfollow from news sources on social media. Then, how do we stay informed? Don’t worry, we will get into that shortly.
Now be patient. After doing the first two, your social media accounts, and what you take in will be much more streamlined. This is exactly what you want. There is a subtle beauty to unfollowing certain connections in getting rid of toxic and unhealthy information.
Part 2: Staying Connected
Wikipedia is reliable. Go to the current events page of Wikipedia, and from here you can see the latest current events, as well as historical events. Information is streamlined and you get the relevant facts and information.
Over the past few years, the community of moderators on Wikipedia is increasing and information is curated to remove bias, political leanings, and false or one-sided statements. Can we say the same for other news sources in the past few years?
Why do I use Wikipedia? Firstly, I know the truth of what is actually going. I don’t have to see the same silly headlines every day until the media drill it into our monkey minds. Information is kept to the minimal and to the point. Yes, Wikipedia is boring too, but that’s good. It is boredom that has no bias.
Part 3: Schedule Time
With social media. With entertainment. With all forms of media. Try these out.
Check your emails twice a day. Once in the morning, once in the afternoon. Don’t leave any emails unread. Reply.
Social Media (you choose the time). I am still working on this. I am trying to cap my time on social media to an hour or two a day. With the majority of my community being on social media, it is important for me to stay connected. But that’s where I come in with the next point.
When working, leave your phone in your room. I know many will be uncomfortable in doing this, but you can also use the ‘Do not Disturb’ feature.
Detox hours for entertainment. Whether that is Netflix or a movie, make time for entertainment, but don’t let it eat up your day. If it calms you, do it. But plan it out.
The Next Steps
We must set boundaries around ourselves. The monkey mind is flawed and selfish, it cannot be allowed to pursue what it wants. We must actively train our attention with the help of various tools to make sure we focus on the right things.
In my next post, I will share some tools that I use to focus my attention.
Stay tuned. Stay connected.