Engaging with content

Too long, didn’t read.

I can’t listen to hour-long podcasts.

I don’t click on videos that are more than three minutes long.

As a creator, I feel pressure to create content that is meaningful, that will connect with my audience, that has substance and value, and is short.

If it’s too long, no one will read it.

I think we sell ourselves short and are dumbing ourselves down in this way. I mean, three minutes for a cat video is long, but for something with substance and meaning?

That said, we need to choose what we engage with. There’s a constant stream of new stuff, in addition to the old stuff that’s worth revisiting. 

I feel like this is one of the downsides to technology as it is—an ever-increasing supply of new stuff and the availability of all the old stuff. 

For those of us who are interested in a lot of things, it’s really hard to sort out the stuff that’s going to get our attention.

Regardless our interests, there’s more available to us than we can take in. We don’t have the time or energy or focus to absorb it all. Instead of picking five things out of the hundred coming at us, and really soaking those in, we just read headlines and take sound bites from all hundred, or as close as we can get. 

And we end up with crap.

And our brains are constantly buzzing.

And we burn ourselves out. 

Right now in Arizona, there is garbage passing through the legislature that supports voter suppression, that undermines public education, that hurts a lot of people in a lot of ways. It’s all important, and very few people have the emotional energy to follow it all and take action on it all.

It’s too much.

That’s just the state level. We “should” keep abreast of what’s going on at the national level, and in our towns, and in our school boards. 

Instead, we take in headlines and sound bites, because we can’t possibly stay on top of all of that.

A better solution might be to pick one—maybe two—topics and follow those. Make phone calls and send letters for those. Do it without guilt of not doing it for all of them. We can’t do it for all of them. If you have like-minded and equally burned out friends, perhaps split the causes, so between you, you’ve got multiple topics covered.

Finally, for information-based incoming, whether it’s about maintaining your house or parenting or tips for your hobby or political or gardening or whatever, limit it to what you can use now or soon. 

I am terrible at this and have hundreds of bookmarks and emails in folders and videos on the “to watch” list. And yes, I was genuinely interested in those things that I bookmarked five years ago, but five years later, or two years later, or a year later, I need to just acknowledge that I’m not going to read them and delete. Electronic slash and burn. Yes, it is interesting. No, I’m not actually going to make time to look at it.

I did go through and delete many bookmarked things, but I couldn’t bring myself to just clear it all out. “Just in case” is strong. At least some of it is cleared out. Getting there…

I’ve changed my email rule to max 20 messages in the inbox. So when I hit 21 (or more), I look through, see what’s been just sitting there, and do something—read it, act on it, delete it. What does it need to get out of the inbox?

That’s worked pretty well. Not holding on to things for weeks or months that look interesting that I’d like to dive into more and just don’t. 

And unsubscribed from lists that I consistently delete without reading.

And started taking time to read books again, instead of using all my reading time on online pieces. There is something different about reading a book instead of reading online items, even if the stuff online is good stuff. Which then leads to the same question—which should I choose to read?

How do you decide what content to engage with? Do you give longer articles or videos or podcasts time?