“People often say that motivation doesn't last. Well, neither does bathing – that's why we recommend it daily!” – Zig Ziglar
I recently listened to a podcast interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates, the journalist and author. During the interview, Mr. Coates talked about his decision to shut down his Twitter account and leave that social media platform. The constant barrage of negativity was impacting his writing. He explained, “If I don’t exert control over what comes in, I will in no way be able to exert control over what comes out.”
That’s a key point – what we absorb impacts what we generate. The internet and social media have helped further democratize the distribution of information. More people are able to express their views to more people than ever before. However, that means a long with the good, there’s a lot of bad.
It’s up to us to filter what we take in and what we distribute. We have to balance the information we need to receive against the negativity that doesn’t add value to our lives. That means we have to select sources wisely, add positive influences, and turn off the input to give ourselves time to think.
Deciding what to read and who to follow aren’t easy tasks. We have to be careful not to trap ourselves in a “bubble” or “echo chamber” where we only hear ideas that reinforce our existing point of view. At the same time, we don’t need to add hysterical rants to our daily feed.
One way is to go to websites of news organizations that hold divergent points of view. For example, you may make it a habit to visit both CNN and Fox News every day. You may not agree with either point of view, but it’s important to recognize the arguments from both sides.
Similarly, on Twitter or Facebook, you should consider following people who you don’t agree with but are respectable sources. If people are mean, and regularly resort to ad hominin attacks or posting disgusting caricatures, then avoid them at all costs. However, a person who has a different point of view on taxes or education, may still have important ideas that you should understand.
Because negativity sells, take steps to introduce positivity into your daily feed. A great source of beauty and inspiration is Instagram. With just a click, you can add delightful imagery of any topic that relates to you – from historical churches to supportive parents to appetizing food – whatever the subject, someone has taken a photo you might enjoy. Consider it dessert – a little sweetness to round out the meal.
The same holds true for offline content. I recently finished “The Forever War”, a harrowing book by Dexter Filkins about the seemingly unending conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s an important book that more people should read, despite it’s disturbing text. In an effort to restore my spirits, I followed that with “Theodore Roosevelt The Citizen” by Jacob Riis – an enjoyable biography written by a close friend of my favorite president. Exerting some control to balance what comes in.
Just as important is to take a moment to stop reading and make time to digest. Turn off the laptop, mute the phone and close the book. Just sit in your favorite chair or take a stroll outdoors. In the quiet, think about what you’ve learned and what it means to you. Reconsider your sources – it may be time to discard some of the old and seek out someone new. Always reconsidering the balance of your diet.
With this new outlook – what do you want to share?