Why You Should Filter the Content You Consume

The Gist:

  • The material you consume can consume you.
  • All that you ingest shapes your mindset.
  • You need to filter out anything you might consume that would make you negative, pessimistic, or cynical.

Last week, my wife asked me what I thought about a news story that received a lot of attention. She chastised me for not paying enough attention to what’s happening in the world outside my windows. I rarely watch television or listen to the news outside of CNBC’s Squawk Box, the best place to get information without being programmed by the programming. While I had missed the provocative local story, I was aware of several earning reports and that the price of Coinbase dropped after its initial public offering.

One of the principles I endeavor to live by is the directive given to a boxer right before the bell rings: “protect yourself at all times.” It is challenging to avoid the ever-present media that surrounds you. Many screens now dominate our lives, making it difficult to avoid consuming what is negative and harmful to our mindset and results.

In addition to the media you consume, the people surrounding you often provide you with their beliefs, opinions, and fears. They want to offer you the chance to consume what they have already consumed, so you can share their view of the world. Unless and until you recognize what you’re consuming—and how much and how often you ingest things that don’t serve you—you can become increasingly consumed by that which you consume.

What you consume

What You Consume

Last week I read a story that reported that in Europe, the news agencies’ reporting on COVID-19 was about fifty percent positive and fifty percent negative. There was good news and bad news, as one might expect. In the United States, the stories were ninety percent negative and ten percent positive. In polling data, a large part of the United States population believed that around fifty percent of the people infected with the virus were hospitalized. That number is ten times greater than the five percent who ended up in the hospital.

In the United States, if it bleeds, it leads. The incentive for media outlets is to capture and retain your attention. Their business model depends on keeping you glued to a screen, so they can sell access to you to their advertisers. That incentive is at odds with the health of your mindset, your belief system, and your long-term well-being.

It is easy not to recognize how much negativity and fear-based content you consume. Still, at some point, it can begin to consume you. How could sitting in front of a screen feed you fear and loathing every day not generate a negative mindset? I recommend you delete the YouTube conspiracy videos your Uncle Enrico sends you each week, before you end up prying out your fillings and wearing a tinfoil hat.

Preventative set of filters

A Set of Preventative Filters

One of the things that can keep you from being consumed by what you consume is a good set of filters, ones that keep out what will harm you should you ingest it—or at least too much of it. Being aware of the events in your world is not the same as being so attached to it that it consumes you.

Here is a list of content to filter out:

That Which Agitates: Much of the content that ruins your mindset is designed to agitate you. When every story is designed to make you upset and unhappy, continually consuming that content will eventually burn in a mindset of being bitter and cynical.

That Which Shocks You: There is a bit of overlap in all of these categories, but it’s essential to recognize what you need to filter out of your diet. When content shocks you by presenting you with something strongly at odds with your beliefs and value system, merely to generate outrage, it is worth filtering out. The frequency at which you consume content designed to shock you will ruin your mindset and make you believe the world is out of control.

That Which Speaks to Your Fears: There is no end of content written, produced, and edited to make you afraid. What’s odd about how much of this content we consume is that there isn’t a counterbalance: ideas and stories that would provide you with the courage and confidence to act.

That Which Divides: The worst diet of all is content which divides us from each other. Whenever you recognize that the motive of what you consume is to separate “us” from “them,” what you are ingesting is a poison. This material speaks to the worst in us.

Like drinking a glass of water bursting with bacteria, the result of consuming what you should filter out is that you risk being consumed by what you consume. You cannot be empowered by that which disempowers. Instead, you will find yourself with a negative, cynical, and skeptical mindset, one that reduces your results and the quality of your life.

What media you should consume

What You Should Consume

The first time I did a “negativity fast,” I removed all sources of negativity from my media diet and replaced it with what was positive, optimistic, future-oriented, and empowering. It’s not enough to remove what is harmful, especially if you have already been consumed by what you have consumed. You have to force something positive into the very same place occupied by the negativity, so you can displace it.

The skeptic and the cynic will struggle with the idea of consuming only positive stories for, say, ninety days. Allow your cynicism to be evidence that you need to consume more positive content. The realist is a pessimist who is too afraid to be positive and optimistic because they fear being disappointed or hurt. As it pertains to your mindset, if you have to go too far in one direction, then let it be too far on the positive side.

Suppose you are going to be consumed by what you consume. Why not consume that which provides a positive, optimistic, future-oriented, and the empowered mindset necessary to do good work?

Do Good Work:

  • Monitor what you consume to create an awareness of its impact on your outlook.
  • Filter out anything that you wouldn’t want to eventually consume you.
  • Replace the harmful content you consume with something that provides a greater benefit.

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