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As a Form of Meditation, We Need a Break From Information Consumption

Information is a commodity. It almost has a corporeal form. It has an effect mentally and spiritually. You might even say that: while the body is built with food, our spiritual essence is built with information.

Remember that information is broad. It goes beyond what we read or are told. Information is what we see, touch, hear, smell, and taste. Information is how we feel. If you are angry, that’s information – it tells you that you don’t like what is happening. If you are happy, that’s information. Sometimes we have feelings that we don’t understand – that’s why after breakups, a phrase we often use is “process your emotions.” Processing data means making sense of it. And since emotions are data, you have to process them to understand them. Information is basically processed data. So I edit my earlier statements and say that anger is not information but that anger is data, and what you learn from it is information.

Information is like food

We live in the information age. We are inundated by information. Remember that I compared information to food. While food builds the physical body, information feeds your mental or spiritual body.

But just as there is junk food which ruins your body, there is junk information which does the same to your mind. Unfortunately, it is easier for content creators to develop junk information. And that junk information, just like junk food, is tastier than nourishing information. That’s why social media is awash with videos of young girls shaking what their momma gave them, funny clips, and content creators saying ridiculous things. There will be more views for a worthless, clout-chasing piece of content than something meaningful. Movie stars have more followers than philosophers. Scientists are not considered interesting unless their lives generate interesting content: for instance, the average person will follow the relationship drama of Elon Musk without ever watching any of his interviews where he talks about his companies and what he is trying to do for humanity.

However, even nourishing information can give you a surfeit if you overfeed. And that is precisely the problem we have today. We are ballooning up with too much information. Our smartphones give us access to libraries: text, audio, and audio-visual. So much tasty information is available to us at the click of a finger. For instance, if you enjoy motivational content, you can watch motivational videos on YouTube from morning to evening for the rest of your life and still not exhaust all the content that is available. The same case if you enjoy literature, science, art, philosophy, religion, and so forth. It is so easy to squander away your entire life, consuming information.

Information consumption addiction

Unfortunately, since you are consuming what you consider high-quality information, it feels as if you are making progress. But you are not. You are just feeding. Imagine a person who does nothing but eat. It’s not even possible but imagine it anyway. That’s what it is like when you are so addicted to information consumption, watching video after video, reading article after article, listening to podcast after podcast.

We need to take a break from information consumption. It’s almost a form of meditation. Just like the body needs time to digest the food you have eaten and convert it into a form it can absorb, your mind needs time to digest the information you have consumed and convert it into knowledge and ultimately wisdom.

Just like there is waste created from the digestion process, there will be waste produced from the information digestion process. Your mind will only retain information that is relevant or resonant. The rest you will just forget. And that is important. Forgetting is important in the mind’s scheme to protect itself. If we never forgot anything, we would experience so much pressure and stress that we wouldn’t be able to handle it. However, everything loses sharpness after a good night’s sleep, and eventually, we can forget things entirely. This is why when something bad happens, you are told, “Tomorrow is another day, go sleep it off.” At night, when you are asleep, the mind starts to rest, digest the information, sift it, get rid of what is impertinent; and you wake up a new man ready to face the new dawn’s challenges.

It is therefore important for us to practice self-awareness and self-control where information is concerned. Technology companies have discovered our addiction to shiny objects and have weaponized their platforms to grab and keep our attention for long periods. We are like gambling addicts in a Las Vegas Casino. We are so addicted to the dopamine highs that come with imbibing exciting new information. And we are ever in the search of the ultimate high. There will never be an end to brilliant posts or articles or videos. There will never be an end to twerk videos or prank videos or celebrity gossip or politics, or Ukraine war updates. There will always be one more brilliant podcast out there for us to discover …

Fed by algorithms

And the algorithms are ready to accommodate us – in fact, they are built for that exact purpose. Having studied you and understood you (or at least come to some conclusions about who you are), the algorithm will suggest content for you to consume in the trust that it is what will ensure you stay browsing for longer on the platform. That’s how you find employees unable to focus on their jobs during the day or kids who are never able to sit still and listen to the teacher. We are at a point where we can’t have complete conversations without reaching for our phones to see what people are saying online.

Facebook, Twitter, Quora, YouTube, Netflix, mobile games, Wikipedia, TikTok – all these are like crack cocaine but for the mind. They make us feel good. They entertain us, educate us, engage us, and distract us. They make us feel popular, interesting, and in demand. Some of these buttons that they press are just what the doctor ordered.

Question is: how can you change this situation for yourself? How can you reclaim your time, your mind, and yourself?

Also read: How We Build Healthier Online Communities

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