We live in a time when, whether for good or for bad, we have access to the world at our fingertips. Sadly, many of the influences we encounter through the media on a daily basis are not to our advantage and are not meant to be. However, we do have some control over how we use technology; and this control can greatly affect the quality and trajectory of our lives. I’ve seen it in my own life and this is what that has looked like for me.
Adios, Cable TV
About 3 years ago, I came across a little device called an Apple TV and it changed (and continues to rock) my world. There are other brands of streaming media players, such as the Roku, but I’ll focus on this one since it’s the only one I’m familiar with. The device is connected to my television and I use it to watch iTunes purchases, Hulu, Netflix, HBO GO, and YouTube. Of course, you have to have paid subscriptions to some of these, but it still costs me under $20 a month. That’s much less than I’ve ever paid for cable. There’s access to many more media outlets, but these are just the ones I primarily use and new ones are being added all the time. No, I am not getting a kickback for this, though I might try to now that I think of it…
Besides paying much less than I was for cable, I find I’m far more intentional about what I watch. There are no or very few commercials. I also don’t find myself getting sucked into watching hours of television while I mindlessly surf through hundreds of channels, most of which I don’t even watch. Another trap I’ve been freed from is getting reeled in by what’s coming up next. I find myself doing strange, creative activities like thinking, reading, writing, cooking, and … (wait for it) going outside and actually talking to real, live people! Pretty radical stuff, right?
Facebook is the social media outlet that I use the most. It’s probably the only one that I use on a daily basis. I often hear people bemoan what they see on Facebook, but the reality is that we can choose (for the most part) what we see and what we don’t see. No positive friends? No problem! My news feed is filled with posts from pages that I’ve “liked” because they have content that interests and inspires me. The more you like and share the content you enjoy, the more these types of posts will appear in your news feed. This is the same with what you see of your Facebook friends, too. I’ve also joined a couple Facebook groups that I really like. These groups are filled with people who have similar interests and go there to share them. Right now I’m in common interest Facebook groups about tiny houses, writing, and productivity. I’m sure you can find a group for whatever your interests are. If not, create one!
Unfortunately, there are some “friends” on Facebook that constantly have negative content or posts that I just do not want to see for whatever reason. These are usually people that I’m not even close to! When this keeps reoccurring, I decide if I want to unfriend or just unfollow them. Unfriending is more final, while unfollowing means you’ll still technically be Facebook friends with them, but their content won’t usually appear in your news feed. Don’t feel guilty about whichever one you decide to choose. We are what we consistently consume and you get to choose the kind of messages you want to absorb and the kind of people that affect you. I think your daily Facebook experience will be drastically different after you’ve done some spring cleaning. At least, it was for me.
Google is my best friend. If you don’t like Google, the same applies to any search engine. I feel so fortunate that I live in a time when I can simply “Google” any random thought or question that comes into my head and learn more about it. This is how I’ve found many of my favorite blogs and websites. When I come across a site that I really like, I usually search for it on Facebook and like the Facebook page if they have one. This way I can see their new posts on Facebook since I’m on there anyway. I rarely ever visit websites directly now, but Google helps me to find them and make the initial connection in the vast World Wide Web.
You Tube is filled with informative and entertaining vlogs (video blogs). Vlogs are made by regular people who make videos of whatever they’d like to share. I hope to create my own soon! There are also music videos, television shows, movies, audiobooks, and so much more. You just type in the topic you’re interested in and a plethora of options will usually appear. Fairly recently, I’ve discovered how beneficial it is to sign up for a free You Tube account. If someone has content that you really like, you can subscribe to their You Tube channel. If you do, their videos will appear under “What to Watch” whenever you go onto You Tube. You can also create playlists. I have playlists for music, recipes, workouts, and so many more categories of interests, and it’s all for free (at least for now)! Having an account also allows you to like and comment on videos. I like to give positive feedback to people who are creating useful content for free. If I really like someone’s You Tube channel, I usually check if they have a Facebook page so I can see when they have a new video up right on my Facebook news feed by “liking” their page.
Podcasts are another great (and free!) medium to connect with content that connects with you. They’re kind of like talk radio for those of you who are not familiar with them. Podcasters create a series of podcasts based on specific topics. You can do a search for whatever interests you and subscribe to the podcasts you like. Subscribing is completely optional. This will make new episodes automatically available on the podcasts app of your iPhone. I’m not sure if or how it works on other phones. I also listen to them on my iPad and Apple TV. I like that they’re just audio and not visual so I can listen to them while I drive, run, cook, or clean. And of course, I always check if my favorite podcasters have a Facebook page so I can follow their content there, too.
Being more mindful about the media I consume has made me happier and healthier. I’ve also found that it’s made me less materialistic and increased my self-esteem as I’m exposed to less and less advertising. This was a side effect I could not have predicted.
Anyone will tell you that cutting out a habit is not effective unless you find something to replace it with. If you’ve been feeling like you’re losing your brain cells and your humanity because of the content you’re consuming through television, radio, or the Internet, go easy on yourself. You might want to try incorporating just one of these ideas at first and see how that goes. We can eventually eliminate the negative influences in our lives by gradually adding in the positive.
I’m pretty happy with what I’m consuming, but I’m not completely satisfied with the grip that technology has on my life. I find myself checking my phone constantly: while I’m working, as soon as I wake up in the morning, and basically anytime I hear a notification PING! that creates such a sense of urgency. Eventually, I’ll tackle this aspect of how technology affects my life and well-being.
For now, I’ll have to swallow my pride and acknowledge that maybe I’m not always in control of the technology I use as much as I’d like to be. Sometimes, I allow it to control me.
If you found this post helpful, have any tips to share, or can help me control my urge to constantly check my notifications, please leave me a comment below.
I love hearing from you!