This is something I’ve developed an opinion on over the past few years.

I think there is a significant difference in what we learn when we consume Active vs Passive content.

Striving to consume active content is important, passive content is dangerous.

I think I’ve solidified my opinion with a dash of stretched viewpoints over the past few months.

I made a conscious decision to shut off most types of content right at the end of 2012. This meant not watching any more TV Shows, TV and cutting down heavily on movie watching.

I did that back in 2012 because I did my math on how much time I’d spent consuming such type of content while in my first two years of college and the number was a little too high for my liking.

I also cut down on my social media back in 2012 which had the adverse effect of me losing touch with quite a few of my friends, I’m making amends now.

Anyhow, last year I stopped using social media completely and later last year I went without a smartphone until quite recently.

These are some reflections based on reading I’ve been doing and what I’ve experienced through these experiments(?)

I think there’s a significant difference between how much we absorb when consume content actively vs passively.

Content falls under these buckets to me (I’m not sure if this list is exhaustive):

  • Social Media (posts,comments,notifications etc)
  • Surveys/Quizzes
  • Blogs
  • News
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Interactive
  • Books

This list applies to online and offline content.

We can consume some of this content only passively. In my view these are Video ( Movies, TV Shows, YouTube videos, Documentaries ), Audio ( Music, Talks, Podcasts )

I define passively as one of :

  • as a distraction
  • while distracted
  • while not thinking about what we consume

The first 2 are easy and obvious to understand.

But, the 3rd one presents the most danger.

In Thinking, Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman talks about two types of thinking that we do,

System 1 : Fast, Automatic, Un(sub?)conscious, fast and pattern based

System 2 : Slow, rational, decisive, logical, conscious

In the book, Kahneman talks about the merits and demerits of both types of systems and how it affects us in our daily lives.

I think consumption of content is the activity (passivity?) where we are seeing/going to see the ill effects of System 1 thinking.

There is a significant surge in the amount of passive content consumption which has already led to the spread of misinformation with little to no friction.

The problem with passive consumption of content is that you do not activate your System 2 while consuming it thereby not thinking of critically but, rather fitting it into preformed patterns quickly in order to get ready for the next wave of incoming passive content. This is especially the case with short form content. I’ve been doing my best to avoid a lot of this, and now, in extension, have been avoiding the news in general.

My approach to passive consumption of content is to exercise caution, analyse the source, CONSTANT VIGILANCE and moderation ( if not abstention )

The flipside to this, is to understand and take advantage of this phenomenon.

That is to say, become the sheep dog, or a wolf, who understands that people in general are becoming sheep, herders showing you where to graze and what to eat.

I fear we are at the first point of no return in this, I hope I am wrong.
Huxley seems to have predicted a lot of this.

If I’m right however, I intend to take the path of the wolf.

Thank you for reading

Sainath