Do you have mental clarity? Are you in control of your thoughts most of the time?
I recently asked my wife why she watches the news. Her answer was, “To get a sense of what’s going on in the world.” An innocent answer that many people would probably agree with. I think this same answer would apply to why people check social media – to check on what’s happening or avoid FOMO (fear of missing out).
In contrast, I don’t watch the news. Ever. I also use social media sparingly. I check Instagram daily, and then pop on to Facebook and Linkedin a few times per week to share my blogs and podcasts or answer messages from friends. I do not scroll or explore much at all.
I could give you a bunch of reasons why I think the news and social media have a negative influence on society. I could tell you how I think they’re programming us to not use our brains effectively. I could also tell you how they’re strategically engineered to induce fear and dopamine into our nervous systems.
But that’s not truly WHY I avoid them…
I avoid them because I choose mental clarity. I prefer to curate what I spend brainpower on. As a result, I am in control of my thoughts most of the time.
Our minds only have so much capacity for thought. We’re able to think around 50,000 thoughts per day, which calculates to 30ish thoughts per second. That’s a lot of thought!
In this regard, our minds are like computers. They have a limited amount of storage for thoughts. If you’re using up all the storage there’s simply no room left for more thoughts.
That’s where the news and social media come in.
Think about how many thoughts you’re generating if you’re consuming news and social media regularly. Friend and family updates, world events, professional updates, new products and gadgets. Your mind is having a thought explosion! It’s an endless party of more things to think about and process.
One simple thing can have a ripple effect that generates thousands of thoughts.
For example, you see something interesting on Facebook. So you click through to the person’s profile who posted it. Now you’re scrolling through and consuming recent activity from them. You find a YouTube video that’s worth clicking, and YouTube launches in a new window. Now you’re watching a video that mentions something you heard a few weeks ago from a friend. So you check your phone to find a text message from them, which reminds you that you have this thing to follow-up on. So you switch back to your email to find the thing…
The rabbit hole evolves into thousands of thoughts from one little thing, and now your mind is completely hijacked. You are reacting to all kinds of stimulus.
So what’s the problem here?
There is no problem if you want everyone else’s activity on your mind. That’s a perfectly fine way to live. You’ll just never generate anything authentic to yourself. You’ll never have real thoughts that you create because your mind is using all it’s bandwidth on other stuff. It’s constantly reacting to the next update or external influence. That’s the trade-off.
When we consume news and social media regularly we’re putting our minds on auto-pilot. We’re giving those sources power to influence our thoughts. We’re giving up our ability to think freely. We’re reacting instead of choosing.
That’s the problem.
Balance & Choice
I’m not suggesting you find a cave and shut yourself off from the world. That’s a pretty lonely way to live. I’m also not suggesting you get rid of the news or social media from your life. That might send most people into a spiral of depression with new problems.
Instead, I’m suggesting you consider more balance with choice.
Consider a life where you choose to consume media in moderation.
Instead of watching the news daily, watch it weekly or every other day. Instead of checking social media hourly, check it daily or twice per day. Instead of quickly Googling something you’ve forgotten, give your mind some time to think and use natural memory processing.
Consider a life where you choose more space for authentic thoughts.
Instead of consuming things, you create time to sit and experience your own thoughts. Thoughts of wonder, curiosity and creativity. Thoughts that only you could create. Thoughts that are so unique and exciting that they’re child-like!
These thoughts cultivate the real gifts within us, the good stuff. They liberate our minds from being hijacked. They help us find internal peace.
Authentic thoughts ultimately allow us to become the fullest expression of our true selves.
This is why we choose mental clarity.
Ali is a creator who's passionate about coaching people through desired self transformation. That's a fancy way of saying he wants to help people do their inner work. He's a father, husband, podcaster, blogger, technologist and many other things that inspire him to stay curious and learn. He's also a huge advocate for nature, hiking, adventure, testing physical limits and experiencing the natural world.