What I allow to shape me

It is impossible for any human to take in all the information available to us. As new technologies emerge, both the amount and pace at which information hits us keep increasing. With an abundance of information, how do we choose which we allow our attention to absorb and which to ignore?

People in the “old days” might hungrily await news and gossip from a traveler passing through because of information scarcity. The information given to people, would be weighted based on the trustworthiness of its origin. A stranger, a recurring visitor with a tendency to exaggerate, an elder, a child, a spouse, a priest etc.

The information abundance increasingly requires some sort of curation, and it seems to have become the norm to outsource information curation to social media platforms for many people. I find that to be a huge problem. Social media doesn’t have my best interest at heart, instead, they curate for maximum engagement (profit). Social media aren’t interested in a nuanced debate, because a nuanced debate does not flair up emotions, causing even more engagement and time spent on the platform.

Personally, I need help navigating the endless amounts of information and I have disqualified Social Media. What to do?

I don’t know exactly how to get only the “good stuff”, but I have found a few simple rules to filter out A LOT of the bad stuff.

Avoid “news” playing on my negative emotions

Feeling contempt and anger are usually clear signs that engagement is of higher priority than nuances. We all know the clickbait headlines, and I have found that if I want high-quality news, I will have to pay for them. Luckily, I’ve found a great Danish online news media delivering all their articles as audio. Great for listening to on the road or while doing chores around the house. Thanks Zetland.

Avoid engaging in binary discussions

The binary discussion phenomenon (I am right and you are wrong) seems to be the very essence of Social Media. I have tried using Social Media on several occasions and find myself being drawn into these threads, even though I am actually trying to avoid them. Either I cannot identify these threads beforehand, or the dopamine release is just too high for me to skip them. Regardless, it is a scary feeling out of control.

I’ve come to the conclusion that avoiding Social Media as much as possible, works for me.

Heed little value to opinions from fixed mindsets

People who are absolutely certain that they are always right, can of course be right. But such certainty is a danger signal to me. A binary worldview is comfortable for the brain because it is easy - I am right, you are wrong. But the world isn’t binary. Good or evil. The world is complex and nuanced.

The lack of acknowledging this complexity often results in “absolute certainty”. The more you know, the less you realize you know, and uncertainty would be a natural reaction to this realization. If the people I am listening to, aren’t open to the possibility that they could be wrong, I need to apply a healthy amount of uncertainty for them.

Wrap up

So other than avoiding using social media as much as possible, and listening to friends and family with a critical mindset. I have found a few curated sources that I follow regularly, who have earned my trust:

I also really enjoyed the book Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari and I am currently reading the follow-up Homo Deus*.

As always - find the balance between being open-minded and being critical.