Doing stuff is hard. It takes so much time and effort, and who can be bothered? You know what’s easy? Eating chocolate. If offered, there is almost no scenario where I won’t indulge in having a piece (or six) of that sugary bliss. Yep, I want chocolate so badly that a reasonable person would look at me and how I look at chocolate and think to themselves… This guy has a problem like my girlfriend, who would describe my admiration as an addiction.
I’m not the only one addicted because, as per the rules of standard human programming — if enough people are interested in a thing, then it's less weird and bad for you. Look at Netflix, another vice, Instagram, podcasts, and audiobooks. Have I mentioned Medium? What about email newsletters and websites. Plus, who could forget YouTube? What’s the point of being alive in 2022 if you have to sit through commercial television like a moron. YouTube sends me mildly targeted ads at the average cost of 10 seconds before I can press the ‘Skip’ button.
My patterns for content consumption behave in waves. Basically, I save up many articles, tabs, or episodes, then binge hard on that medium (like YouTube) till I get through all of it, or most of it, then move on to the next outlet (like Castbox). The same as a junkie going from one drug to the next… I assume? I don’t do drugs, so I don’t know how to work in a drug-related quip.
A pendulum-like problem I have consuming so much is that you go a little crazy swinging between Analysis Paralysis — where all you do is examine more and more information and do nothing about it. To what I’ll call Surface Skimming, I go through ten articles on something but don’t really engage with the topic, so I end up knowing nothing but the headline and a couple of buzz words. Hoping that will get me through a future conversation with my friends who actually do the research. Ah, the life of a bullshit artist.
When you go to work, you’d think you have to focus on getting down to business and doing the job like a line worker in a factory. But this is the information age… Or is that disinformation. And even the “typical” job means you need to be equipped with at least the recent headlines, industry facts, trends, and studies, and that’s just to get your foot in the door of the conversation.
The fact is that these days what we have to consume far outweighs the time we have available to consume it. Sure, it would be easy to say “eat less”, just like I’ve been told to “eat less” chocolate. But that’s not easy or reasonable or doable because chocolate is fantastic, and because I’ve noticed a lot of the time, the triggers for your content consumption are the same as for your food consumption — it’s based on mood.
If you’re rushed, you eat fast food. Instagram. Have you ever noticed that Instagram is like McDonald’s? You consume it and think you’ve eaten until you feel like shit moments later.
If you’re stressed, you indulge. Netflix.
If you have time you relax, you might read a book. But if and when you get bored of being an intellectual, you’ll eat anything to be entertained. Tik Tok, Snapchat, Facebook, YouTube, Disney, Prime, and on and on and on.
This seems like an impossible problem to solve; we all know we shouldn’t eat garbage, but healthy alternatives in an age of digital consumption don’t seem to exist. You could switch off, but that’s pointless, and it would also be so hard to do because as much as you can put various timers on your phone, what about your TV or tablet or laptop?
You could rely on a freak phenomenon; remember that day Facebook went down for a few hours? I remember that day. It was a beautiful day. It was as if the sun shined a little brighter and food tasted better. Anxiety temporarily became just another word I couldn’t spell without assistance. Oh, how nice it was to stop looking at others for all of, in relative terms, was 10 seconds. Counting on a phenomenon is unsustainable because, as mentioned, many vendors are shovelling addiction. Also, all of them going down at once? Not going to happen. Not for long enough to recalibrate.
I think it’s reasonable to agree that recalibration is something we need. Maybe it’s as simple as some silence. A break from augmented interactions and a chance to engage. With ourselves and the people right in front of us. Maybe we need a day of rest… I try to do that on Saturdays. It works pretty well. For most of the day, I don’t think about my phone. It’s Friday today. Give it a shot. Or don’t the choice is the same for you and for me to get a sugary treat.