Each time we open our laptops, peak at our smartphones, or check Facebook or Twitter, we invite the world’s most talented distraction merchants to persuade us in what will become of our day.
Our thought processes are not created in a vacuum. Our brains are constantly churning though, working out, and trying to process, organize, and make sense of whatever information we provide to them. What we feed our brains every morning will be what our brains digest throughout the rest of the day.
If the first thing we do in the morning is to roll out of bed and check the smartphone for our Facebook and news feeds, we let our lives—our priorities, our values, our mental processes, and our very existence—be dictated to by those whose greatest talent is to manipulate our attention to further their own selfish agendas.
No one is better at this than our current President. But I refuse to let the President’s shenanigans dictate my moods. And I refuse to let some white nationalist clown in Charlottesville or anywhere else decide whether I will be in a good mood or a bad mood today. And I’m not about to let Antifa or some other group’s reaction to someone else’s racism affect me, either. Or to let some athlete’s performance I’ve never met determine whether I am happy. No one’s agenda gets priority over my own.
At least in my experience, I think the reason I sometimes let my various screens hijack my attention is not that I particularly enjoy what I find there, but because it’s easy.
There’s a nakedness to situations where we have to decide for ourselves what to do. It’s easier to let other, stronger personalities lead the charge. To give in to the flashiest form of distraction. There’s a certain relief when you finish your to-do list, but for me at least, there’s a moment there that’s also terrifying. That emptiness of external priorities forces us to fill the vacuum. It’s easy to fill that vacuum with various forms of escape—booze, drugs, and digital distraction. And then days become weeks, weeks become months, and eventually our life is in the rearview mirror.
It’s harder to carve out our own path and stick with it. To live life instead of escaping or avoiding it. But it’s invariably more rewarding and meaningful, too. To the extent I remain aware of my own tendencies, I prefer to do nothing than to fill the void with garbage.
It all boils down to refusing to let others dictate your agenda, one moment at a time. That choice is mine and mine alone. It doesn’t belong to my clients, it does not get placed in the grubby hands of any political advocate, it does not fall to the media, and it does not belong to my Facebook friends.
That is a choice I delegate to no one.