Become your own algorithm and protect your brain
Unless you have ones and zeros coursing through your veins, you may not know what an algorithm is - and you may not care. However, if you would like to increase the quality of screen time you’re giving yourself, I have a few tips and tools you’ll want to have.
According to Google, an algorithm is defined as:
”a process or set of rules to be followed in calculations or other problem-solving operations, especially by a computer.”
You’re probably thinking algorithms are for computers! How can I be my own algorithm!?! Hang tight while I fill you in.
Defining the problem
As you sit there browsing your regular websites, clicking on whatever interesting video shows up in your Facebook feed or spending hours watching evening TV, do you ever pause to ask yourself:
“Why am I reading this?”
“Why do I watch video upon video in my Facebook or Instagram feed?”
“Why am I giving my TV this much attention?”
“Is this the type of information I really want to fill my brain with?”
I’ll start by saying, “It’s not your fault”. Our need as humans to take in new information dates back to our early ancestors. Our minds, right from the beginning, have been biologically coded to search for new information, new threats, and new sources of food.
Today, in the 21st century, we are inundated with so much more information everyday, starting with the moment we open our eyes. Here’s an example many of us can relate to:
- Our radio wakes us up to the morning news
- We grab our phones while still ine bed, and our lock screen shows us how active the world has been while we were asleep.
- We may have the tv or radio on while performing our morning routine and eating breakfast
- We see ads/billboards on the commute into work
- Elevator televisions display news headlines while going to our floor
- Browsing the internet on our computers & phones tell us what to buy based on our cookies and search history
We work all day! Then, repeat the same bombardment of new information on our way home. And statistically for many of us, we watch hours of TV after work and in the evening before bed. And yes, that does include watching Netflix on your phone.
“It is our senses which create our attention. What are you giving your attention to?”
Questioning the problem
When we question the problem, it helps to understand what the problem is, and what it is not. I can tell you what the problem is not. The problem is not the information itself. What the problem is - is our attention and our biological need for this new information. Meaning, the choices we make with respect to the quantity and quality of the content we ingest needs more scrutiny than many of us currently give.
It is time for all of us to become more cognizant of what controls our attention - as it is our acceptance of all this stuff that plant seeds in our minds.
Let me share an example with you To explain. You see an ad promoting a new cell phone. Your attention is drawn to the ad, and a seed is planted in your mind that you want that new phone. You google that phone and begin to realize how much better the new phone is over the one in your hand. You see the same ad day after day until you rationalize to yourself how your life will not be complete until the new phone is in your pocket.
How many different types of seeds from all the forms of media are being planted in your mind every day? What are you doing for yourself to be the gatekeeper to your mind?
Solving the problem
So what does being your own algorithm look like? Well, first we stated the problem (above) and now we come up with problem-solving operations to address it!
About six months ago I decided it was time to evaluate all the “feeds” which I was allowing to grab my attention. I thought about how they were affecting me and I decided it was time to create a stronger focus in my life for what I really care about and what actually interests me. Not focus on the media that gets pushed to me and I mindlessly take in. I toyed with ways to address these concerns and came up with a simple solution:
Minimize consuming media I have minimal control over the content and maximize consuming the media that I do.
Minimal control items: Radio, TV, Facebook/Instagram Feeds, random internet surfing.
Maximum control items: Podcasts, Netflix, YouTube, Books, Subscriptions.
I also decided to start consuming media using an RSS Newsreader. This is a program that looks like your email inbox but instead of being full of email, it’s full of all of the internet sources I’ve chosen and does not contain ads.
So what does my maximum control of media consumption look like? (The result of being my own algorithm).
- I listen to Apple podcast subscriptions
- I listen to audiobooks from Audible
- I research high quality sites, put them into my news reader and sort them by topic
- I choose specific shows (obviously without commercials) on Netflix.
- I focus a lot of my time creating my own content
I believe it is important to read media from different ends of the spectrum in order to draw my own conclusions rather than letting media conclude for me. Don’t just believe what your read verbatim. Always Be Skeptical, But Learn To Listen - based on The Fifth Agreement: A Practical Guide to Self-Mastery .
How are you being your own algorithm and controlling what enters your brain? I’d love to hear your thoughts.