Humans are hard-wired to pay attention to stimuli that are novel, unusual or shocking. It is why we slow down and gawp at car crashes, or become addicted to Twitter, CNN or Fox to follow an insurrection. Seemingly, we can’t help ourselves.
This susceptibility to the novel can be especially dangerous when we run interference on ourselves. If we have the choice of confronting our lifestyle choices, our health, our relationships or our work, or instead spend the day following what the latest tweets from the self-proclaimed guru Sushal Meedaya, it is a no brainer. Precisely because it is a no brainer.
Getting deflected is easy. It takes effort to be steadfast, to be focused. When we are fed increasingly dumbed-down, chicken nuggets of information, who can be bothered to read a long exposition? Anything beyond the 280 characters of a tweet now requires an apologetic encouragement like “2 minute read” to reassure us that there will 58 minutes left in the hour to pursue another 29 topics. Reading in depth is now pejoratively termed “going down a rabbit hole”.
This superficiality is the enemy of good relationships, careers or personal development. Rarely, if ever, can satisfaction in these realms be achieved from digesting a tweet, or gawping at a photoshopped “perfect” life. We end up being guided by inane cliches that feed our increasingly brittle self-concepts.
“Surround yourself with positive people” is an egregious example of this ilk. In the context of the competition for social media friends and followers, it is a call to surround yourself with just-like-me sycophants who then collectively become juicy targets for further manipulation. It is more a case of be the change that your imaginary friends want, rather than what you want. It is time to get real.
Drop out of the virtual and drop into real life. There you will find you are truly wanted, and have valuable things to offer. And that will help you address those difficult questions about who you are and what you want to do with your life right now.
Jim Bright, FAPS is Professor of Career Education and Development at ACU and owns Bright and Associates, a Career Management Consultancy. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @DrJimBright