How Overconsumption of Media Can Affect Your Attentional Health

Today we live in a world where we are constantly pulled into different directions by content. Whether it is email, social media, news, you name it, it’s out there.

Back in the old days, we didn’t have the amount of access to food like we do now. As we evolved as a civilization, we figured out ways to manufacture food in a systematic way.

After a while, as the world kept on evolving, we also evolved in our food habits, which included the rise of the fast-food culture. People liked it so much to the point where the demand for all kinds of junk food went up the roof.

Today we have an abundant amount of junk food available in our society. With the rise of junk food, we also saw a rise in type two diabetes, obesity, and different kinds of metabolic syndrome which increased dramatically after the 1950s, the same time when the world was just getting a taste of more refined foods in their diet.

The point is, similar to how our nutrition changed over the years and eventually created an epidemic of dietary illnesses that could have been avoided with the kind of food choices we made.

The way we consume digital content has also changed over time. Back in the days, we didn’t have instant access to literally anything you want to look upon the internet.

We didn’t have social media, youtube, Netflix, etc, people used the internet primarily to get specific information about something and move on.

Today we have an abundance of resources on the internet and we can’t get enough of it. Over the years as we realized, fast foods are bad for our physical health.
We haven’t yet exactly realized that there are things that are healthy and unhealthy for us to consume for our mental health as well.

We need to be more conscious of what we expose our brains to, otherwise, the consequences can be deleterious, Including, addictions, short attention span, lack of focus, impaired productivity, etc.

The question is what can we do about it?

1) Be ruthlessly picky about who or what you follow on youtube or social media

Yes, cat videos are out of the question. When we expose our brain to content that doesn’t add up to a meaningful or a learning experience. We are wasting our time, brainpower, and attention on things that will be forgotten once that video ends.

I am not saying everything we watch has to be a learning experience. But there is a time when you want to be entertained and there is a time when you don’t. Everything needs to be in balance.

When we are constantly scrolling away on social media for the next photo or video. We are taking away the attention and focus we have in our brain into things that are redundant to our lives.

You see, everyone has a limited attention span. and when we use most of that on productive things, we grow as a person and when we don’t, we get stuck in a loop of dopamine addiction, where our brains get used to watching content that doesn’t require any conscious attention.

2) Turn off notification for news and social media

Nowadays our phones are constantly beeping with notifications and most of these beeps belongs to the news and social media, like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc.

Every time you get a notification, you are tempted to open it and check what’s it about, whether it’s a new like on your post or some forwarded message on group chats.

Each time you indulge in that notification, you give your attention to something that doesnt add any value to your life.

When you cut down on that random notification, you would be surprised by the amount of time you could save on other things.

So next time whenever you get a notification from one of your social media or WhatsApp groups, ask yourself, is it worth your time and attention, are you gonna learn anything from this. If the answer is no, Mute all the unnecessary notification and the Whatsapp groups

Eventually, over time, you’ll notice your brain getting used to the new routine of not being tempted by the notification sound because you took the action to change that and the result will be you becoming more conscious about what you expose your brain to.

3) Uninstall the apps that you don’t need

For each social media app on your phone, Facebook, Instagram, or Pinterest. The more you will be tempted to spend your time scrolling on them in your day.
Because they exist on your phone, and with just one click you can get instant access to what others are doing, random videos, etc.

However, when you uninstall those apps, you force yourself to go on the browser and then type in whatever social media feed you want to check.

It may sound like a small change, but from personal experience, I can tell you, it has a huge impact. The amount of time your mind wanders onto those apps on your phone cuts down dramatically.

It’s the instant access through those apps which is tempting for our brain. And every time you go on them, it’s likely you won’t close it down before scrolling away from your attention for a while at least.

Because those apps are designed in a way for us to stay on them as much as possible. The algorithm is programmed according to our behavior, the content we like, the content we spent more minutes watching.

It takes all that into account to provide you a tailored experience so you spend as much as your time possible on those platforms.

Hence when you delete all the apps, you are no longer tempted to peek into them,as much as you did before, you will still want to go on your social media feeds. but the temptation goes down gradually and you find yourself better off it eventually.

4) Pick Reliable Sources for Information

Unfortunately, most of today’s media is biased, inaccurate, and politically driven according to whichever candidate or party aligns with their idealogy.
So with so much content out there, it’s getting harder to find the unbiased and factually correct information.

When you are conscious about your sources and the news you are consuming, you no longer act without thinking and hit the share button without verifying the news.
When you do that it creates uncertainty about who or what to believe in anymore.

Hence picking a reliable source for your news and information is extremely important so that you don’t get sucked into reading those click-bait articles all day. Which are specifically made to grab your attention.

Getting your information from sources like Wikipedia for example, is a much better choice, basically a source that isn’t biased or benefiting by twisting or creating spicier headlines just to attract attention.

5) Set aside 10 minutes in your day to Reflect

If you have been reading my other articles, you’ll notice, I mention this one point far too many times.

It is immensely important to take at least 10 minutes in your day and simply be with yourself, without any distractions, like phone, TV, or whatever it is.

On an average day, our brains are exposed to a lot of different things from the time we wake up and till we go to bed.

However very rarely we give it enough time to sort of reflecting and be in a period of silence and observation without engaging in endless thoughts.

Hence when you take time to Meditate, you teach your mind to become more mindful and not do things based on the dopamine kick.

You train yourself to be more aware of your behaviors and eventually the benefits blossom onto different areas of your life, including attentional health.

When we mindlessly consume content throughout our day, we put our attentional health through a wringer, As we continue with this pattern, it becomes harder and harder to focus on just one single thing for a long period of time, We feel the need to multitask. And most of that stems from how we abuse our digital devices.

By taking time to simply meditate, we retrain and rewire ourselves, improving our focus, attention, and becoming conscious about what we expose our brains too.

Bottom Line

It’s extremely important now more than ever to become more mindful about our choices when it comes to consuming content.

It might not seem like a big deal to watch random videos on the web all day. It subconsciously affects you by hooking you up onto the cycle of getting addicted to it, without you even knowing about it. Making you compare things, creating FOMO (Fear of missing out), etc

Start getting picky about what you choose to watch, if you are interested in history, science, then try following those sources on the internet.

So Whenever you decide to go on social media or youtube, you are only exposed to healthy informative content and not things that are virtually meaningless and doesnt add any value to yourself.

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