What if I just deleted it?
What if I just deleted it?

The turning point

If I had to pin it down I’d say the turning point was last year somewhere around election time. That’s when things really started to spin out of control. Every day was an escalation of the day before and the internet and social media were on fire the whole thing is just one big steaming dumpster fire with no signs of slowing down. There’s been some chatter about a few social media sites cleaning up its act but so far it doesn’t seem like much is happening. So I had to ask myself what was I getting from these apps? Were they important enough to keep around or was it time to finally time to dump them? The answer seemed obvious so I started by deleting the worst offenders, Facebook and Twitter then I canceled my news feed. Ok, so to come totally clean I didn’t actually quit them altogether I just dumped the apps on my phone and iPad in an effort to turn down the noise. In hindsight it’s probably one of the best things I’ve ever done.

Did it work?

Did I suddenly come out of a fog like some kind of dystopian character in a sci-fi novel who finally achieves total enlightenment? Not exactly. At first, I felt like I was missing out on something crucially important. I felt like the world needed me to stay informed and I was letting them all down. Turns out that wasn’t the case at all. Nobody cared. For my part it really had little to do with staying informed at all. I wasn’t using the information to make the world a better place. I was just consuming, feeling outraged then consuming some more.

The whole thing was like a giant hamster wheel of discontentment.

I started thinking about it. Why are these messages so compelling and what can we do to shift our interactions with them? The basic formula is pretty simple. Headlines are designed to attract attention, once inside the articles are written in a way that’s designed to stimulate an emotional response. That emotional response is then echoed and amplified by comments from other readers and through social media. As we get caught up in the cycle it triggers a chemical reaction in our brains shifting our thoughts away from being productive and toward being reactive. That reactive state of mind leaves you with feelings of stress and negativity. So even though you may find something in the story that positively reinforces your point of view you still come away with negative feelings. That reaction compels you toward more negative behavior and down the rabbit hole, you tumble.

My solution may not be perfect but it seems to have made a huge difference in how I feel throughout my day. Limiting my reactive state means I can focus on better and healthier behaviors. Do I still get caught up in the cycle? Of course, the only way not to is to fall off the grid and we all know how that goes.