How often are you surprised anymore?  I mean, really caught unaware and taken aback in awe or shock from something you’ve seen or heard?  I’d say the pandemic caught most of us by surprise, but when it comes to hearing the latest news on it, how it affects our health, the economy, everything—we receive a storm of information every day, and although we may not always like what we hear, does it really surprise you?

Probably not—because we live in an era of constant, all-consuming, instant information.  Or as author and entrepreneur Michael Simmons puts it in this article, The Info-Apocalypse.

This influx of so-called “knowledge” doesn’t even necessarily mean we’re gaining wisdom or understanding.  Being overwhelmed with options tends to distract rather than inform, especially with the rise of social media and shoddy news outlets whose primary concern is to simply grab your attention.  We’re so busy being busy and trying to take it all in that we often forget to ask: am I even absorbing the right things?

Like the end cap at the grocery store displaying snack foods in bulk instead of healthy options, most modern experiences these days are designed to “lead” us to decision-making without us knowing, like the results curated on the first page of a Google search.  But just because there is an abundance doesn’t mean it has real value.  No matter how many bags of veggie straws you buy, they just won’t fuel you the same way real vegetables will.  In the store, at least, we can usually determine what’s good for us to consume, but what about online?  How do we sort through the packed internet shelves of information?

Here’s what Simmons recommends:

  1. Before you delve into content, ask yourself: “does this have the potential to fundamentally change my life?” Pretty heavy question, but if it doesn’t fit this criteria, why bother?
  2. Check the Opportunity Cost: “the value of the choice of a best alternative cost.” Is my time well spent on learning this? Is there some other way I could get this information that would be more useful for me?
  3. Learn how to learn. This seems easy enough, but a lot of us have done it wrong. We tend to focus on our interests or things we already have an understanding of when we really should be examining things outside our scope of expertise. Search for why we could be wrong about things we feel so certain about. Learning isn’t always about building on what you already know, sometimes it’s about completely reshaping it (if the information you find redefines your thoughts on it).
  4. And my very own advice: take everything with a grain of salt. Who is sharing this information and what are their qualifications?  Do they have sources or are they simply spouting opinion?  Does their opinion at all enhance my life or should I simply disregard it?

Now, if something does surprise you, that’s a sign you may be learning something new and it’s worth taking a moment to process that information.  Evaluate: is this grabbing my attention because it was designed to or because it truly is worthy of my attention?  Information isn’t going anywhere anytime soon; it’s only becoming more garish and plentiful.  Now more than ever, its essential that we equip ourselves with the strategies to filter out the white noise.