What We Let In

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It’s fairly easy to consume information in the 21st century. At one point news spread by people telling stories or having to deliver messages in person. Then we had the printing press and so forth and so forth. I’m old enough to remember magazines and TVs in dentist and doctor’s waiting rooms. These days those things are fairly pointless because most of us when we have a spare minute or are waiting or bored pull our phones out. Heck even if we don’t have anything specific to do, we’ll have a quick swipe and flick through some news feeds or check our WhatsApp or some news. While we’re more connected than ever, and that’s a good thing in many ways – we’re also more connected to negative stuff and often – total garbage. From news that is effectively polite clickbait – designed to anger you and bring out strong emotional responses, to all the ups and downs of social media. Even our messaging groups with friends and family can often lead to us consuming even more negativity. I’m not saying to ignore your friends and family when they might need your empathy or support or to avoid the news and be ignorant of world events. My point is that it can be quite hard to escape all of the noise – the good and the bad noise. So much so that we start to depend on that little dopamine rush we get every time we get a notification or start to check the news or social media for longer and longer periods. A teacher I had many years ago recommended that we all watch the news every night to stay informed of current affairs, politics, world events, law etc. This was well intended but since I received that advice – news consumption and consumption of social media has sky rocketed. We don’t watch 30 minutes of news before or after our dinner or for a little bit while we’re getting ready for work. We don’t just check our social media or personal e-mail before and after work. No we check it when we wake up. We check it when we go to the bathroom. We check it on lunch breaks. We check it before we go to bed. We check it when we’re with partners, friends and family in the same room. This isn’t a rant against any of these things but it’s clear that being bombarded by so much information, media, posts, opinions and often the associated anger and outrage can leave us almost absorbing that mentally and emotionally. We start and end our day with negativity. We spend our breaks from work with negativity. Of course there are the positive aspects of good news news and positive posts. But we need to be careful what we let into our mental space – not just in content but the sheer volume of information we’re looking at every day – most of it outside of our control. We need to control what we look at more and when we look at it. Or else it’s a bit like sitting on the beach on the edge of the water getting pulled and pushed back and forth. No real control – just being swayed one way or the other.

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