While growing up, T.V. was like the 5th member of our family. Due to lack of awareness, my father always watched action films that were pretty violent and frankly, not recommended for children. Even if we don’t really watch such films and are doing something else in the same room, I feel that our subconscious minds get affected by things that are running in the background. Not much has changed when it comes to T.V.’s status and the content at my home but I am really thankful for the internet for being such an amazing source of alternative content. I am writing this because I just observed a major shift in my thought process due to the kind of content I have been exposing myself to over the years. And it’s not just about the content on T.V. or the internet; it’s also about the content of the conversations that we listen to (or participate in) in daily life.
I’m a compulsive thinker. I often get lost in my own thoughts. The worst part about this is that at the end of it, I feel like a loser because most of these thoughts are self-destructive. Since the last few months, I started becoming aware of my thoughts and how harmful they are. This has also made me look at the information and content that I’m consuming.
Initially, when I started exploring the internet, it was a relief to find so many alternate voices. But it is tempting to be a part of a us v/s them ideology and I gave into this temptation. Yes, mainstream culture kind of bullies you but if all you do is react and hate mainstream people, then really, you are not very different from the bullies. I was full of hatred when I realized that many people are ostracized for just being different and not ‘normal’. This is the mistake that I made. But maybe, this phase is required. It is the first step towards awareness. One of the examples is the introvert revolution which played a big role in overcoming shame.
I feel that most of us get stuck in this anti-something revolution. But if we want to grow in our spiritual journeys, we have to upgrade our thinking.
So what kind of content is helpful? My suggestions would be:
1. Critical thinking is the first step towards greater awareness. But once you see different points of view, I feel that we must prefer content that has solutions to problems rather than content that just discusses problems. Example: TED has many talks that focus on solutions. Also, it is better to avoid overtly cynical people because at the end of the day, too much of cynicism saps energy and makes you feel hopeless. The Better India is full of stories about people who find solutions to serious social problems in India.
2. Any content that propagates hatred is not recommended. Example: Extroverts are shallow people. I love some websites dedicated to spirituality but what I find hypocritical about some of them is that they kind of ‘hate’ the material world or capitalists or society in general. You can stand up for what you believe in without the hate.
3. Content that encourages neurotic form of hero-worship and focuses only on a single individual’s ‘greatness’ or flaws is not recommended. Example: Some people ‘worship’ spiritual gurus or political heroes while some people believe that it is okay to take law in your hands and kill rapists without proof or investigation. Rape is NOT a joke but the fact is that we all are in a way responsible for rape and ‘outrage’ should be directed not just towards the rapist but also at ourselves because rapist is a product of society. It is better if we look for content that explains the why and not just the what. Why do rapes happen? Example: See this to understand the psychology behind crime. The entire website is full of rich and wise content.
4. Look for content that inspires you to create your own art, to find your own solutions. There is a difference between content that wants you to become dependent and turn you into a follower and content that inspires you to do your own thing. Example: Brainpickings will inspire you to be more curious while Your Story can inspire you to question the conventional wisdom of getting a job. Berlin Art Parasites has a brilliant Facebook page that combines words and visuals. It doesn’t just inspire you to paint or write, it makes you look at life in a completely new way. People who have joined this page have found solace in this page during depression.
5. IMHO, wisdom is more important than self-righteousness. It is better to read and watch content that scores less in the area of melodrama. Melodrama sells and it is easy to feel self-righteous. It is better to read content that scores more on empathy. It is also better to expose yourself to content that makes you self-aware and self-critical. It is also good to remember that changing yourself is as important as changing the world. Example: Dr. Devdutt Pattanaik‘s work is full of enlightened wisdom. Alain De Botton and his team use philosophy to understand and solve practical problems (here and here). They even analyze celebrity gossip to find something meaningful, philosophical and wise in it!
Once we develop awareness then we can watch poor content without getting influenced. My next goal is to look for wisdom in the content that I consider poor and harmful at present :).