Digital dieting

fire hose - MediumRecent and upcoming elections have revealed an interesting, and disturbing trend. The creation not just of “fake news”, but highly targeted fake news. Using data scraped from social media, and elsewhere, what arrives in out inbox or social media accounts is more and more tailored and targeted. A form in many ways of virtual reality.

Of course, it’s not just elections. It is happening in all realms. On the benign side, curated, filtered information is a boon when it comes from those we trust, and have given permission to do this for us. On the dark side, it gives those with the capabilities of shaping our perception of the world to suit their agenda.

We are hosed down with information, of varying quality and as our attention is increasingly consumed, we have become “solution junkies” looking for fast, easy, proven, safe answers to the challenges consuming our attention. We end up chasing our tails, reacting to assertions and views that have sometimes been designed to achieve that.

Let’s consider a few of them:

Business is more competitive than ever

This has become accepted wisdom, and the rationale for many a consultative offering. The problem is, it’s a questionable assumption. The years since the financial crisis have seen record levels of consolidation. For many businesses, it’s not competition that’s the problem, it’s the lack of it, as successful companies are gobbled up by their larger, slower, competitors.

We are all entrepreneurs now

Although we have seen a rise in the number of start ups, and independent operators, they are not all entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs who create high growth businesses are few and far between. There are more of us who operate independently out of choice and a desire to have more control of our lives, and there are those who work independently out of necessity.  These three groups have very different needs. Lots of “solutions” as to how we can increase sales dramatically, scale our business, and the like force many into costs and models that are just not appropriate.

Business is getting faster

Only partially true, certainly the internet had exponentially increased the amount of information we receive, and the number of people we are in contact with, but speed? Business is a function of relationships, and those don’t get faster. Transactions do, but transactions are soulless, and do not of themselves build businesses.

Globalisation and robots will overwhelm us.

 This is the current “fear du jour”, and like business getting faster is only partially true. Certainly, if your current job involves routine processing, whether on the assembly line, or in an accountants office, then there is a threat – both from low cost outsource labour, or an even lower cost algorithm. Again though, this affects transactions far more than relationships. 

What matters

We can easily get distracted by the volume of “noise” being directed at us, and spend so much time processing it that we lose the ability to identify the “signal”-the stuff that matters.


Dealing with the issues is a simple as it is difficult. It’s like dieting. Consume less, be selective about what you consume, and track your progress. Even better, find a group trying to do the same thing. 

If we can free up even an hour a week to be able to think and reflect, rather than react, what is important will become clearer. We have everything we need to find our way forward.

There are lots of self help books with “recipes”- all have something to offer, but like the diet, it’s really about intent.

Here.s my diet:

  • I’ve limited my social media contacts to only those I really want to be connected with. In my case, it’s around 50. Signal generators, not noise machines.
  • I use my tablet for emails, social media, calendar and any other communication.  My laptop is a place of quiet- where I do my work. There are no inbound channels to distract me. It is based on “pull”, not giving others permission to “push”
  • I do original research, and carefully select the media I use. I avoid, like the plague, articles pushed at me by those who I don’t know. They are on their agenda, not mine, and I can do without the interuption.
  • I spend at least 10 mins every day getting rid of the noise (I’m a fan of mindfulness – other approaches are available) and one afternoon a week entirely off line. 

What I’ve come to understand is that most of what we spend our time coping with uses very little,of our ability, and that most of it can be done by someone else, or something else, cheaper and probably just as well. Our futures are at heart really simple. It involves no more than 150 people who you want to work with, doing something that matters, that brings you joy.

Making time for that is worth the short term pain of a diet.



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