Setting Media Boundaries (aka Information Overload...And How to Take Back Control!)

I think we all can agree that the digital age has ensured that we are all taking in a whole lot more media than we were 10 years ago. I’m definitely not saying anything new by stating this.

We used to have books, tv/movies and physical mail. Now we’ve got, books, e-books, audio-books, TV, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, email, Slack, WhatsApp, podcasts, RSS feeds, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc. And it’s wonderful. But it’s also a lot. And it never ends.

So let’s talk about how to take back control and get your media diet to a place that feels not only manageable, but pleasurable. Don’t worry, you’ll still be informed, you’ll just be less stressed. Before we get into the nitty gritty though, let’s talk basic philosophy: the goal here is to fine tune so that you curate your media intake to the content you love most, and the volume that fits best into your life.

Now, let’s go!

TV Shows

Think about all the shows you’re in the middle of watching. Which ones do you really love? Which ones do you binge on? Are there shows you are watching just because your partner or roommate is?

Ditch the shows you don’t love, even if you are in the middle of a season. You’ll thank yourself later for all the time you’ve taken back.

Podcasts

If you’re like me, you’re always hearing about new podcasts and subscribing…and then you find yourself in a predicament where you’ve got 100+ episodes on backlog. So, what to do?:

Review: Every few months, look through your un-listened-to podcasts. Are there certain shows you haven’t listened to in weeks, or even months? If so, unsubscribe.

Maybe these are podcasts you really enjoyed at one point but just don’t anymore. Maybe the content just isn’t relevant to your life. Maybe you do really love these podcasts, but they just fall below others on the priority list. Maybe they are aspirational…you wanted to like them, but you don’t. Whatever the reason, if you aren’t listening to them, don’t hang onto them, or download more of them.

Consolidate: Do you listen to 5 daily news podcasts? Pick one and unsubscribe from the rest. Food podcasts? Same thing. Football podcasts? Ditto. You get where I’m going here.

Books

Keep a list of the books you hear about that you’d like to read. This way, when you finish a book, you’ll always have another in queue.

(Go a step further and request the book from the library so you don’t add clutter to your home. You can always buy the book later if you find it’s one you’d really like to keep on your shelf.)

Movies

Keep a list of the movies you want to watch. The next time you sit down to watch a movie, pick from your list to ensure that you’re spending this time doing something you really wanted to do, vs. just browsing what’s available.

Websites/Blogs/RSS Feeds

Use a Reader: Firstly, if you aren’t using an RSS reader, start. Feedly is great (and if you were a fan of the now-defunct Google Reader, it’s pretty similar). An RSS reader aggregates all the content you like in one place, so you don’t have to go searching, or try to remember the name of that blog you like. Anytime a new post/article is posted from a content source you’ve added to your reader, it will appear in the feed. Ready and waiting for when YOU are ready for it.

Review: If you are already using an RSS reader, then every few months, take a look at the unread articles. What content sources are they coming from? Remove those sources from your feed to reduce the number of articles you just scroll through, and increase the ratio of content you want to read all the way through.

Social Media

Limit: Now, this might be a controversial position, but I’m going to say it: Pick one or 2 (maybe even 3) channels you enjoy the most, and ditch the rest. Does Twitter overwhelm you? Does Instagram make you feel bad about yourself? Let them go.

Access: If you find yourself scrolling mindlessly through your feeds, take actions to limit your own access. Save yourself from your self! If you’re feeling brave, remove the apps from your phone. (You’ll still be able to access from your computer.) If you need an interim step, move the app icons to a folder labeled “Time Suck” (or whatever works for you), and put that folder on the last page of apps on your phone. Make yourself work to get to it. If you have to think about it, you’ll curb your mindless scrolling without trying too hard.

In Conclusion

Let go of the FOMO (fear of missing out), and embrace the JOMO (joy of missing out). Think about how much less stressed you’ll be when you don’t have all that unconsumed media hanging over you, feeling like you’ll never get through it all. (Because, new flash, you won’t.)

And imagine how much more you’ll enjoy the media you do consume, when you’ve taken the time to curate it especially for yourself.

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