“Understand at last that you have something in you more powerful and divine than what causes the bodily passions and pulls you like a mere puppet. What thoughts now occupy my mind? Is it not fear, suspicion, desire, or something like that?”
—MARCUS AURELIUS, MEDITATIONS, 12.19
When we read Marcus Aurelius talking about being pulled like a puppet by fear, suspicion, desire… we must undersant his historic context.
Marcus Aurelius lived almost two thousand years ago. There was no internet back then, no Facebook, no iPhone, not even TV. Shocking, I know.
Thus, in today’s world, we need to interpret those strings differently. In fact, I think we live surrounded by them nowadays. A lot more than it would have been possible merely fifty years ago.
Modern Strings For Modern Puppets
Think about advertisement, for example. It’s everywhere. Not just on advertising posters on the streets or in newspapers. They are on our screens, in our social media, our family chats and of course on every page we visit.
Have you ever wondered why Youtube added the auto-play feature? Why you can scroll on Facebook endlessly and never stop seeing content?
I have discussed before why you should be quitting social media, at least as a consumer. Simply put, it’s a way of wasting your time consuming content that’s begging for your attention.
Indeed, there’s a fight today for your attention and engagement. This fight has consequences we cannot ignore.
In her TED talk, We are building a dystopia just to make people click on ads, Zeynep Tufekci brilliantly explores how the YouTube algorithm tends to serve you more extreme content to make you spend more time watching videos. Actually, the algorithm “discovered” that serving a users heavily polarised content on a topic they might be susceptible to increases their engagement and makes them stay longer and, thus, watch more ads.
That also brings us to a very unsettling conclusion: people with very strong, polarized opinions on certain subjects are more keen on engaging in social media and content apps. Hence, there’s an interest in serving us that kind of content.
In fact, during the last years, we have been subject to an increasing manipulation of news, bordering on plain manufacturing sometimes. Anger, outrage, and hate provoke stronger reactions on us, and make us happy consumers of information that reinforces our feelings or points of view.
Cut The Strings That Pull Your Mind
Never in the history of mankind have we been under such a race to win our attention and time.
I know it’s not easy, but I think we should do a conscious effort to cut these strings. Quitting social media and being more selective on the news, blogs and feeds we read is a good start.
Your time is yours. Don’t let others dictate what you want to watch, think, feel or do. Don’t let others forge your opinions or prevent you from listening other points of view. Have an open mind always, and be willing to discuss, listen to new ideas, and even accept them when appropriate.
Stop being a puppet.
It’s January the 14th. On today’s Daily Stoic, I discuss about how to cut the strings that pull your mind. Social media, Youtube, the news… all of them are fighting for your attention and engagement. The goal is serve you ads, polarize your opinions and make you spend your time where they want you to spend it.
We should do an effort to stop that. I think it’s worth it. Any comments? Don’t hesitate to share them with us below!