The internet and smartphones have made it easier than ever to advertise. There’s nothing inherently wrong with advertisements, but advertisements make it easier to fall into autopilot mode—where you’re no longer conscious of your spending. There are also less obvious advertisements that influence us, e.g., social media. Companies pay thousands to celebrities if they tweet about their product or share a picture of themselves using their product. When we follow a celebrity, we may not realize that we’re also subscribing to advertisements for products we don’t really want or need. Then there’s the social media feed altogether: reminding you of your outdated wardrobe and how you need to go to X country in order to be pictured with Y tourist attraction.
Anything we read or see is a form of consumption. We’re actively (but sometimes unconsciously) consuming information that may or may not add value to our lives. Since most of what we consume online doesn’t cost any money, is it really something to be concerned about?
Problems with Overconsumption of Information
Focus. When we’re constantly connected, we jump between activities instead of focusing on one task and completing it before moving on. Notifications interrupt our flow of thoughts and prevent us from deep thinking.
Stress. We feel obliged to keep up to date with news and in doing so feel overwhelmed by the constant flow of information being shared. We always feel behind and as though we’ve missed out on something.
Negativity. News is generally focused on what’s going wrong in the world, which can distort our world view and make the world seem worse than it is. Social media has been linked to increasing levels of depression among teens and young adults.
The cost of information overload is not directly linked with spending money; however, the time and attention that you spend consuming information could be better spent working on something else, e.g., a side business. Or that time and attention could be put toward being present in the moment.
Minimalism is a movement that you may associate with sparsely furnished white rooms. While this is some people’s interpretation and expression of minimalism, I prefer the following definition from The Minimalists:
Minimalism is a tool to get rid of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfilment, and freedom.
How to Detox
There’s no ideal amount of time to spend detoxing, but try one (or all) of the following for one week.
1. Block all news websites and apps from your phone and laptop
2. Don’t access your social media accounts
3. Keep the television switched off
4. Switch off your phone when you get home from work
5. Don’t pick up any newspapers
It’s likely you’ll feel an itch to do one of these things at some point during the week. Each time you feel an urge to reach for your phone or go on a news site, pause for a moment and think about what else you could do instead: exercise, go for a walk, cook something nutritious, call a friend, read a book, meditate, listen to music, clean or tidy up your space, declutter, etc.
We have just one more lesson and then you will have completed this course on Becoming an Empowered Consumer. The final lesson will provide you with a toolkit to take what you’ve learned and apply it in a way that adds value to your life today and in the future.
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