Facebook, youtube, instagram, twitter, snapchat, emails, texts… life has changed a lot in the last 15 years. And although these things can be great and add value to our lives, in excess they can also become very overwhelming. Some days it can feel like technology is swallowing up life as we know it. It can be easy to come down with a big time case of information overload.
I like to call it the overconsumption epidemic.
Our friends at Wikipeida define overconsumption as:
” a situation where resource use has outpaced the sustainable capacity of the ecosystem. A prolonged pattern of overconsumption leads to environmental degradation and the eventual loss of resource bases.”
Just as our environment degrades when its delicate ecosystem cannot withstand the ongoing demands, we as human beings can degrade through overconsuming too much stuff “out there”. What do I mean by stuff “out there”?
Think about a day in your life. When you rise in the morning ready to take on a new day, how many minutes does it take before you pick up your phone, check your email, facebook, etc?
For most of us living in the modern world the answer is not very many. Right away, before we even have a moment to check in with ourselves, we are swimming in emails to return, facebook feed to review, social media updates, etc. It’s all enough to make our head spin. Only it doesn’t, because it has become the new norm. So we live day to day with spinning heads interacting with others with spinning heads, never taking the time to slow down and realize what the heck is actually going on.
Just as when someone overconsumes on a junk food binge and feels the disastrous results in their belly, when we overconsume on information it’s like we are binging on junk food, only the effects are felt in our psyche. When we are constantly getting only deposits of information “out there” whether it be from podcasts, instagram, emails, texts, youtube, TV, facebook, we don’t have any space left to check in with what messages may be coming from within.
I know what some of you may be thinking…what if the information overload is from content that positive? Not just snarky comments on youtube or political tirades posted on facebook by eccentric family members? What if it is of the uplifting, inspiring genre? Well, that’s pretty darn awesome on one hand, since what you surround yourself with you become. But on the other hand, even though some of our information consumption (or hopefully in your case much of it) may be of the positive variety, it’s still coming from outside of ourselves.
Those people on that TED Talk stage are speaking to you through not only their life experience, but their intuition. Those uplifting quotes on instagram came from someone listening to their heart as well. And seeking inspiration from others farther down the path than ourselves can be very powerful. But at a certain point it can also become a substitute for having the courage to be still, look within, and really be honest with ourselves about what our intuition is saying to US.
When we gorge ourselves on information outside ourselves without taking the time to check in with ourselves and digest it, we can land up with a case of mental and spiritual indigestion, whether that digital food be of the McDonald’s or kale variety.
I have been feeling that ick in my belly these past few months every time I went to check my email or found myself on youtube wondering where all the time went (and wondering what the heck I got on there for in the first place). Something was telling me to stop the madness. To stop injesting so much stuff outside myself so I can actually be aware of what’s going on within myself.
And whoa! Game changer. The moment I awoke that I had drunk the information overload kool-aid and called myself on it, I started to hear the nudges and whispers that had always been there, but were being swallowed up in a pile of information, noise, and images. It’s kind of amazing that when you can actually make the space to hear your intuition and have the balls to follow it, things just sort of line up in a very natural way that your mind cannot really conceive.
So yes, my name is Mindy and I’m a recovered overconsumer. You may be coming to the same realization about yourself. If you are, welcome to the club my friend. Here are a few things that have helped me in recovering from information overload:
Hit unsubscribe – for real. The next time you check your email, take a good hard look. How many of those emails do you just immediately delete? How many of them do you want to immediately delete, but click on them anyways due to FOMO and then later on wish you could get those 10 minutes of your life back? Hit the unsubscribe button…hardcore. If you don’t feel that it is interesting, inspiring, useful, then get it outta that inbox! I have been doing my unsubscribe detox the past few weeks and cannot say how much more pleasant it is to check my morning emails.
Beware the zombie trap – Yes we live in a digital age, and yes it can be a wonderful thing. But it can also be incredibly addictive. You may log onto facebook just to do a quick check in, and then an hour later find yourself checking out profiles for random people and not even remember how you got there. Or you may watch yesterday’s Daily Show clip and then hours later realize you have fallen down the youtube rabbit hole and feel unsure how to get out (that one’s never happened to me 😉).
Enjoy the digital life, but just as with alcohol and sweets, do so with moderation. When you realize you’ve gone from enjoying that youtube clip to zombie land, well put the laptop down and exit the zombie land ride. It’s all about awareness.
Meditate – Yes, I realize that these days everyone’s answer for everything is meditation. But there’s a good reason for that…it works! When you wake up in the morning resist that itch to immediately dive into digital land and give yourself some time to just be and check in with yourself. You will more than likely find that your day goes much smoother and that over time the constant itch to consume digitally is eased.
If meditation conjures up visions of yogis twisted in uncomfortable pretzel-like formations, then check out the app Headspace. Headspace is a simple easy intro to meditation for anyone, but especially for those who may be overwhelmed by it. And yes, I do realize that I just suggested a digital means to overcoming digital information overload…see it as meditation training wheels to get you in the habit until you feel comfortable freestyling your meditation practice.
To close I will circle back to our friends at Wikipedia, who state:
“The most obvious solution to the issue of overconsumption is to simply slow the rate at which materials are becoming depleted.”
You don’t have to completely withdraw from your digital life. Just be aware of when you have reached your information overload limit, ease off the digital gas pedal a bit, and give yourself some space to get back to YOU. In the spirit of back to school, I leave you with a poem from my favorite childhood poet and my favorite to read to my students, Shel Silverstein: