March 23, 2022

It’s not a technology thing, it’s a boundary thing.


The world wants to interrupt you.

Our economy has evolved from how can we help people, to how can we distract them.

And this machine is expertly designed and completely filled with innumerable bits of content to take our attention away from what matters most.

But ignoring the news and doing a permanent media fast and removing all notifications from our devices, these habits have less to do with managing technology and more to do with setting boundaries.

It’s selective indifference. Conscious consumption. Focusing on your choices and not the choices other people make.

This is what keeps us sane. The small, personally insignificant transgressions of strangers don’t have to trigger our eager wrath. There are healthier and more useful investments of your time than fixating on other people’s mistakes.

Just ask any recovering addict. They will tell you how their core job in recovery is to keep their own side of the street clean. Not to take other people’s inventory, to use a popular phrase from the twelve step program.

For them, the process of getting sober is more than just quitting drinking or drugs or shopping or gambling, it’s also about weaning off their toxic addiction to dramatic information. Committing to no longer burning any calories on the pointless pastime of outrage, and instead directing that energy toward something they can control. Their own choices.

Obama’s quote comes to mind. He repeatedly said during his first presidential primary that our country needed to do more than end the war, we needed to end the mindset that got us in the war in the first place.

The same goes for our own personal boundaries. We need to unlearn our old ways of operating and actually set limits on our behaviors.

The challenge in setting such boundaries is almost always guilt and shame. For the guilt part, you’ll feel like a bad citizen. A disconnected outsider who doesn’t know what’s going on in the world.

Like maybe you should be spending more time obsessing over the issues to make yourself feel like you’ve done something meaningful to affect them.

For the shame part, people will disgrace you for not watching the news twenty four seven and knowing every detail about every devastating situation. How dare you dare you not boil with fear, discouragement, disgust and distrust? Have you no soul?

But the question we have to ask ourselves as a culture is, what if the angrier we get about everything, the less we actually care about anything?

Turns out, outrage fatigue is a real thing. Psychologists define it as the exhaustion, cynicism, apathy and hopelessness we feel as we try to take on too many campaigns at once. And as a result, choosing between the things we are outraged by can start to feel impossible.

To me, it’s an embarrassment that this has become the ailment of our times. People need to spend less time patting themselves on the back for being offended and learn how to properly distribute emotional resources across their own lives.

It’s not a technology thing, it’s a boundary thing.

To reduce unnecessary experiences of anger, stress, cynicism and fear, it’s time we started treating most information as yet another form of sugar.

To keep our own side of the street clean and stop taking other people’s inventory.

What’s your favorite way to take your attention away from checking and improving upon your own self?