Want to become more mindful? Watch how much information you consume.

Takeaway: It’s a hundred times harder to burn off calories than it is to refrain from eating certain foods in the first place, and the same applies to the information you consume, and your mindfulness.

Estimated Reading Time: 1 minutes, 6s.

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A couple of weeks ago I was chatting with my buddy Jon Krop. Jon has a story that I find fascinating: in a nut, he’s an “ADHD screw-up turned Harvard Law grad, thanks largely to meditation” (his words). Jon’s a huge advocate of mindfulness and meditation, and during our chat he compared the information you consume on your smartphone and computer to the foods you eat.

His viewpoint in a nut: It’s a hundred times harder to burn off calories than it is to refrain from eating certain foods in the first place, and the same applies to the information you consume, and your mindfulness. Many writers and other smart people refer to a certain “cultural ADHD” that has been caused by rampant usage of smartphones and social media, where people seem to become even more impatient with each passing day because of the plethora of distractions they’re surrounded with.

Jon’s idea is a simple one: it’s a hundred times easier to be mindful when you limit your exposure to social media and other distractions. Social media is the digital equivalent of junk food, but instead of gaining weight you become less and less mindful every day. Just as many people’s bodies are overweight and obese because they eat too much junk, many people’s minds are overweight and obese because they consume too much information.

I don’t have an exact quote from Jon (he’s on a six-month meditation retreat as I write this), but even paraphrased, I love the analogy. Definitely food for thought.

  • Dan Erickson

    I think social media is on the way out. I don’t know what will replace it, but I wouldn’t be surprises if FB and Twitter are gone in 5-10 years. That said, I’m a producer. I prefer to make rather than consume. I mainly use social media to attempt to promote what I produce. But that seems a vain task at times.

    • That’s a tough one to call; since so many folks on social media already consume instead of create, it looks like people are content with that! I’ll agree that it’s a vain task a lot of the time. Often when I send out a tweet that I think people will dig, I find myself constantly refreshing the “Connections” page to see how many people retweeted and favorited it!

    • Forgot to mention: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Facebook/Twitter vanished in 5-10 years either. But I still think something similar would take their place, just like they took the space of Myspace and Friendster.

  • I think social media is on the way out. I don’t know what will replace it, but I wouldn’t be surprises if FB and Twitter are gone in 5-10 years. That said, I’m a producer. I prefer to make rather than consume. I mainly use social media to attempt to promote what I produce. But that seems a vain task at times.

    • That’s a tough one to call; since so many folks on social media already consume instead of create, it looks like people are content with that! I’ll agree that it’s a vain task a lot of the time. Often when I send out a tweet that I think people will dig, I find myself constantly refreshing the “Connections” page to see how many people retweeted and favorited it!

    • Forgot to mention: I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Facebook/Twitter vanished in 5-10 years either. But I still think something similar would take their place, just like they took the space of Myspace and Friendster.

  • cjremus

    Great post and I couldn’t agree more with the premise. I was just reflecting on my own news fast recently and wrote about it here http://cjremus.ghost.io/rolling-with-minimal-news/. David Rock’s book, “Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long”, is a great read on this too.

  • Great post and I couldn’t agree more with the premise. I was just reflecting on my own news fast recently and wrote about it here http://cjremus.ghost.io/rolling-with-minimal-news/. David Rock’s book, “Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long”, is a great read on this too.

  • Oh yes, social media is junkfood. I couldn’t agree more. If you could find good debates or people sharing useful information on Facebook, I’d use it more. But for the most part, all I see are top ten lists of nostalgic movies or people talking about what they’re eating. I do check it out just to keep up with what my friends are doing, but I hate that so much crap gets put in there. I’ve learned to ignore everything. But every once in a while, I get sucked into something and after I read it just get mad that I wasted my time on useless junk.

    • So true that there’s a lot more noise than signal on social media. It seems that just like eating junk food, it feels great in the moment to consume pointless Top 10 lists, but you always feel empty after haha. I agree that it can be valuable a lot of the time; for example, I use Facebook only to keep in touch with people from a couple of volunteer orgs I’m a part of, but even then it’s pretty pointless most of the time.

  • Oh yes, social media is junkfood. I couldn’t agree more. If you could find good debates or people sharing useful information on Facebook, I’d use it more. But for the most part, all I see are top ten lists of nostalgic movies or people talking about what they’re eating. I do check it out just to keep up with what my friends are doing, but I hate that so much crap gets put in there. I’ve learned to ignore everything. But every once in a while, I get sucked into something and after I read it just get mad that I wasted my time on useless junk.

    • So true that there’s a lot more noise than signal on social media. It seems that just like eating junk food, it feels great in the moment to consume pointless Top 10 lists, but you always feel empty after haha. I agree that it can be valuable a lot of the time; for example, I use Facebook only to keep in touch with people from a couple of volunteer orgs I’m a part of, but even then it’s pretty pointless most of the time.

  • Colleen Bailey

    So true. So many people have a difficult time focussing and being attentive in a conversation because of all the social media distractions.

  • Colleen Bailey

    So true. So many people have a difficult time focussing and being attentive in a conversation because of all the social media distractions.

  • Tomas

    I experience this first hand almost every day. If I spend a day outdoors and productive, away from electronics, I find my mind is clear and I have direction in my thoughts.

    Days that I spend glued to the laptop, flicking from tab to tab on different topics, I end up struggling to think about a topic without another one pushing in the way and distracting me.

    Thanks again for your insightful posts.

    • Happy you enjoyed my friend. I find the exact same thing. Even though spending time outdoors in March is a bit tricker up here in Canada than it is in other places around the world.. ;)

  • Tomas

    I experience this first hand almost every day. If I spend a day outdoors and productive, away from electronics, I find my mind is clear and I have direction in my thoughts.

    Days that I spend glued to the laptop, flicking from tab to tab on different topics, I end up struggling to think about a topic without another one pushing in the way and distracting me.

    Thanks again for your insightful posts.

    • Happy you enjoyed my friend. I find the exact same thing. Even though spending time outdoors in March is a bit tricker up here in Canada than it is in other places around the world.. ;)

  • satish jasti

    Hi Chris , I beg to differ on your opinion , don’t you think it also depends on how people are utilising social media ie It can give you a lot of useful information & create a awareness about what’s going in your society.
    Nowadays social media plays a vital role in keeping yourself updated & it’s essential for you to compete with others & know where exactly you are standing(especially in your professional life)

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