Media Minimalism: Less is the New More
In the realm of media consumption, the “new” seems to always win our attention war — and not only against the “known”, but even against the “known to be good.”
We tend to prefer scanning new options over going to saved favorites we’ve already identified as particularly worthy of our attention.
We will search the latest news headlines for an interesting article, before diving into articles we’ve previously saved — ones we saved precisely because they struck us as important or interesting. We’ll scan the YouTube home page suggestions for new viewing candidates before going to our “watch later” folder for videos we’ve already screened and selected. We’ll skim Twitter and Facebook feeds for new article links and social content before going to inboxes of saved favorites we had already identified for ourselves.
In many aspects of life and in work, we gravitate toward the familiar over the risk of the unfamiliar. This of course makes sense when we have proven, trusted options already in place.
However, with media consumption that impulse runs the opposite way against all logic. And if not checked, this one area’s draw away from the known proven options will slow us down in life. It will waste endless time and limit our learning.
On one hand, we have known quality content pre-screened for ourselves by our former ourselves. Content in the “read later” or “watch later” folders forming perfectly curated collections.
On the other hand, we have the gamble of maybe something interesting lurking in the midst of the running river of new feeds.
Why? What is so tempting about the possibility of a new discovery over the guarantee of quality from previous encounters?
I see this phenomenon all the time in my own behavior and in that of my clients. I believe it’s the fear of missing something. Our safely secured previous finds are tucked away in dry storage, awaiting us whenever we’re ready.
But those new ones, floating untethered in the rough open seas of the internet, have not been secured. They are loose and could be lost if we don’t move fast and find them.
That might make sense except that we frequently don’t get back to the ones we’ve already found and chosen to save. Does your “to read” and “to watch” folder build faster than you can keep up? Mine does.
So this is not an exercise of catching everything good so we have them all, we’re not collectors. It’s an exercise of prioritization. The allocation of our scarcest resources: time and attention.
In that light, I think the solution is clear and a habit change is in order.
When we have open time to read, watch or consume, I propose we first go to the treasure chests we’ve already accumulated, not the open seas of the new and unreviewed.
If you are not already doing so, I cannot emphasize enough the value of having a read later app such as Pocket or Instapaper. Save longer form content as you come across it to follow-up with when you have free or designated time. Similarly, on YouTube use the “watch later” feature rather than getting pulled off on tangents when you come across something interesting. With podcast apps, use selective downloads or playlists as the “listen later” holding bay. Every platform has a “save for later” method.
With those saves in place, let’s commit to starting there when diving into content reading, watching, or listening time. Let’s accept that we might miss something — that we will certainly miss many things.
And that is ok, because we have a better offer. We’ve already found good material, and we’re going to actually get to it rather than bury it in an endlessly growing pile.
Eat what you kill before hunting again.