Cutting Through The Noise.

Have you noticed how much information we consume? 

I didn’t really, either.  Until I walked away from it all.  The talking heads on TV.  Twenty-four-hour-up-to-the-millisecond news online and on TV.  Constant updates about friends.  For me personally, commentary and updates on Red Sox trades, and Apple rumors.  (I’m sure you have your niche.) 

Almost nine months ago, I left the media (social and otherwise) behind for over a week.  Over the past nine months, the noise has crept back into my life.  Did I learn anything from my self-imposed media blackout?  A week into my blackout I blogged how much it positively impacted my life.  Yet, today, I am back to many of my old habits.

As my wonderful girlfriend Kelly reminded me, my relationship with consumption has transformed in the past nine months.  I am no longer addicted to Facebook.  (Truly, I used to be addicted, especially with it on my iPhone.)   I use Twitter in a very limited fashion.  However, even with these positive changes, that have opened up space in my life, I took another step back: Given how much I liked my “media blackout”, why didn’t I remain blacked out permanently? 

And I realized that I didn’t want to walk away from it all entirely, because it’s not just consumption, it’s communication. 

First, the change was email.  Then, instant messaging.  Then, cell phones.  Then blogging.  Then, texting.  Then, Facebook,  Then, Twitter.  (Soon, something else!)  All of these inventions transformed our communication.  And I like many of the benefits these inventions bring.  I like being able to reach people quickly and easily, and stay connected over long distances. 

Yet along with these benefits, there are challenges.  With such little barrier to accessing information with the Internet, there is a real potential to over-consume information.  (Just think: In 1995, if you wanted to read Rolling Stone, you went to a newsstand, paid $4, and brought it home to read.  Now?  Click here.  Bam!  Instant consumption.)  So if I consume as much as possible, how is it possible to think?  Where’s the space to reflect?  How do I land on my own opinion if I’m constantly reading others’? 

I do like the benefits of these new forms of communication.  It’s the consumption for the sake of consumption – being in motion without any reason – that I dislike.  It prevents me from living a purposeful life that I love, at work and at play.   Here’s my social experiment: can I cut through the noise without losing the amazing connectivity that 2010 offers? 

I can.  And, in many ways, I already have — though I disclaim that I’m far from perfect. 

It does not requires stringent rules, this social experiment is simply grounded in mindfulness.  It’s grounded in questions.  Why am I spending time on Facebook right now?  Why am I reading the New York Times?  What am I trying to accomplish?  Do I want to set a time limit for what I’m doing?  Why am I going to my iPhone for the latest status updates or news or emails instead of just being where I am? 

I have no problem with social networks.  I love that I can find pictures from last weekend and connect with friends from all over.  I have no problem with reading the New York Times, and getting news.  I have no problem watching TV, or lounging on my couch.  But I do have a problem with doing it mindlessly, simply because there’s “nothing else” to do.  That’s what my February Media Blackout revealed to me, that I have just “defaulted” to various ways of consuming without thinking about the why. 

And those are the questions that I’m bringing to my daily life.  “What else could I be doing?  And would it increase my happiness more than what I’m doing right now?”  Here’s to mindfulness.  Here’s to being here.

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2 responses to “Cutting Through The Noise.

  1. love this! being present/appreciating the NOW is something i think about and work on a lot…mindless internet overload is so easy it wins sometimes still though…haha.

  2. I just got that symbol inked on my neck

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