How to not lose yourself in an information-heavy world

Thinking about the journey of communication is truly incredible. From the Pony Express to telephones to newspapers online. And everything in between. Just imagine the days when one had to wait weeks or months to hear from a loved one.

Now we not only have ways to receive words from family instantly, but we also have ways to learn just about anything by simply typing what we want to know into a device that will spit out whatever we ask of it.

We have more information online than we could ever sift through in a lifetime. There are websites and blogs for every subject under the sun. How do you choose what to read, when to read and how much to read? And since it’s incredibly easy to lose yourself in article after article, how do you not start sinking in this information-driven world?

What’s important to you?

You could spend hours hopping from one thing to the next online. There’s a reason clickbait exists. People create websites, ads and article titles to excite your interest. But why are you clicking? Will it provide you with more wisdom? More understanding of the world around you? Is it important enough that you would rather read that information than put your phone down and talk to the person next to you?

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting on the Internet and doing some learning. Keep in mind, however, that if you click on that app for one specific reason, you’re more than likely to spend more time than planned because of clickbait. A Nielson Company audience report from 2016 revealed that adults spend nearly two hours a day consuming media.

How do you fight against the temptation to simply keep clicking? Think about what’s important to you. Go online to read the news or check your social media accounts. There’s no shame in that. Just remember as your eyes slide across the screen, the world around you keeps turning. Is that YouTube video really more important than everything else going on in that moment?

Picking and choosing

Putting aside the point of spending too much time online, how do you figure out what’s even worth the read? There are hundreds of faith-based websites and blogs. News websites are pretty much all biased. Everyone who has made it big wants you to buy into their secret to success.

There’s too much chaos out there! How do you know what will prove a wise use of your time and not simply kill more brain cells?

If only there was an easy answer to this. A few solutions might include checking out a website’s “about” or “mission” page to learn right off the bat if you want to read their articles, reading multiple news articles to get more than one opinion, and doing thorough research before buying into an idea or product.  

The eternal value

The book of Ecclesiastes, when read without eternal value, is downright depressing. The author, debated but believed to be King Solomon, asked God for wisdom to rule his kingdom. God granted that request, and Solomon became the wisest man who has ever lived (except, of course, for Jesus Christ). And yet he was unhappy. Depressed, one could argue. The pursuit of knowledge did not satisfy the cravings of his soul. Only God can completely satisfy.

We would do well to think through our own pursuit of knowledge. Yes, we should  gather information about the world around us and do what we can to use the brain God has given us. But when our desire for more information becomes a desire to continue clicking, we lose sight of eternity.

Or when we crave the opposite: turning to our phones or devices to give our brains a chance to turn off for a while. Again, there’s nothing sinful with switching on Netflix or checking social media (depending on what you’re checking out on those sites). We just need to tread carefully in order to not mistake “turning off our brains” for eternal value.

When we’re at the end of our lives, or even next year or next week, we will not say, “I wish I hadn’t put my phone down to talk to that person,” or play with kids, or pray to God. If you are that frustrated about your online time being cut short or interrupted, there’s a deeper issue there.

Your eternal soul craves eternal values. Gathering information hours on end when you’re at home after work, clicking from one video to the next, scrolling through your news feed for just one more picture, one more article — these things do not hold eternal value.

So here’s your challenge: Write down all the kinds of videos you watch, articles you read and social networks you peruse. Next to each item, write down the value you find in it. Then decide what areas you need to cut back on or cut out completely. Fill that time you used to spend online with something of eternal value. And then encourage your loved ones with what God teaches you through it all.      

Let’s Talk About It: Why is it difficult to choose eternal value over information? 

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