Who determines what you watch on television? Or who graces the pages of a magazine? What about the messages in the music you like? Or the stories that make the news?
The quick answer is: it’s not you.
It's obvious that the content of anything you read, watch, or listen to, if not created by you, is determined by someone else. But it runs deeper than this.
For many years, I always believed that I had control over what material I spent my time consuming. I would watch the shows I wanted to watch. I would download the music I wanted to listen to. I would read the books I wanted to read. But, of late, I’ve been seeking different sources of entertainment and education: podcasts, audiobooks, and blogs. Since doing this, my level of consumer satisfaction and enjoyment has sky-rocketed. I am choosing what I consume, not from a small list of pre-determined, pre-programmed media, prepared by people/s with a very specific agenda, but rather choosing material from an infinite, undetermined expanse of information.
The material I’m choosing to devour now is much more closely aligned with me. Sounds rather simplistic and obvious, but when you think about the television shows you choose to watch, you’re basically picking the best possible shows out of the list provided by the network stations. The History Channel might be running documentaries about World War II this month. One may look quite interesting, so you watch it. But, you’re actually not that interested in World War II—or the Kardashian’s, or even TV series solving sex crimes—but you watch it anyway, because when compared to the other options, it's the better choice.
Think about the books you choose to read. The same small selection of books are advertised across all platforms. The books that are chosen to be advertised are selected by people/s (publishers and retailers) with a very specific agenda. In this day and age, yes, it’s to provide entertainment, but mostly it’s because these books are perceived as the best money-makers. That doesn't indicate that they are the best books. And, as most people only read on average two books a year, when the time comes to look for something to read, those few selected books will be waiting for them, conspicuously positioned on the retail sites or in bookshop pamphlets, so the decision is easy.
But what we don’t see is that there is an entire world out there that we never get to experience. There are breakthroughs, businesses, stories, and amazing people doing things that we would never even conceive of because our entire media, be that books, news, or T.V. shows, is filtered. And very highly filtered indeed.
We are not given many glimpses of the dark depths of our society, nor the greatest heights. And when we do, we are told the ‘correct’ way to judge both. Through what we consume, we are programmed to mostly see the middle road. And the middle road is an incredibly limited path that leads nowhere other than toward the next middle road.
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).” ~ Mark Twain
Over the last few years, I’ve reduced the amount of television I watch considerably. Of course, there are some shows that I adore and still watch, but I’d rather choose the material I consume. So I navigate the internet (the many different platforms), based on my personal interests, and find material that way. I listen to lots of non-fiction, in the audiobook format, by a broad array of people. I download podcasts where I get to listen to extraordinary people who, despite being at the forefront of an amazing business enterprise, are completely ignored by mainstream media.
I then listen to suggestions from authors, bloggers, and podcast hosts, whom I like, for further material.
As a result, I’m inspired, moved, and educated in ways I never was before. I am learning. I am growing. My mind is opening to a world far greater and diverse than I was led to believe before. But mostly, I’m actually consuming what I want. When I want. And the platform I want. There is freedom in that.
By expanding my narrow view, I am restoring my affinity for humanity.
There is a multitude of amazing talent out there. The world is filled with incredible people with interesting stories to tell. Go and find it. Learn. Grow. Quit being told what to do, what to watch, and what to listen to—program your own life.