What About This Excites You?

When you are reading a tweet, watching youtube video, or looking at an Instagram post, ask yourself: “What About This Excites Me?”

9 minutes

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What About This Excites You?

I’ve read a lot of writing about the need to be mindful about how – and what – one consumes on the Internet recently. I’m sure you will have seen the links go by in my links section over the last weeks and months. Many of them align with my own thinking about taste and discernment online.

Last year I wrote about the need to practice discernment in order to clarify ones taste

When applied to taste, practising discernment means to:

  • Think critically about a cultural artefact you’ve been exposed to for the first time. Its context, meaning, intent etc. 
  • Engage in self-reflection about one’s own existing tastes and preferences. Eg: How does this new phenomena make us feel. 
  • Have some awareness that this reaction may be shaped by one’s social class, education, and cultural background. 
  • Lastly, being open to new perspectives in the first place. 

The practice of discernment is the activity we engage in in order to refine our tastes. 

But I avoided offering any specific question one should ask themselves during the moment of self-reflection in that post. The reason being – I had no good questions to ask or offer. But recently I’ve been trying out variations of the following: What About This Excites You?

Feel free to substitute the word ‘Excites’ with: Compels, Interests, Arouses, Animates, etc. I’m open to reformulation. The main thing is reflecting on how new phenomena encountered makes you feel – both in isolation and more broadly:

When you are sitting there looking at an individual tweet, watching youtube video, or looking at an Instagram post, ask yourself: “What About This Excites Me?“.

The question I’m finding, serves as good jumping off point to becoming more conscious of about the engagement with the media I’m consuming. This question helps me immediately identify whether my engagement is driven by genuine interest or merely habitual scrolling. more often than not

It encourages us to consider:

  • The value or joy derived from the thing I’m watching.
  • Whether the content stimulates thoughtful reflection or provokes a positive reaction.
  • If the content merely amplifies existing anxieties or contributes to a negative mental state.

The other day, because the red notification bubbles on instagram were infuriating, I installed and logged into Meta’s Threads app to clear them out before uninstalling it again. Immediately upon login, the app showed me some super dumb take, from someone I don’t know nor follow, and it annoyed me immediately me. I took the bait and clicked though to look at the dumb replies – so I asked myself the question – and I realised the element that was exciting me (as in siring my feelings / emotions) was how annoying the take was. That was it.

If the answer is this does not excite me, when why are you looking at it? If the answer like the above is negative then stop watching it/close the app. And because I’m increasingly becoming a ruthless motherfucker, mute or block the person who made the content.

On the other hand, expanding the question out to the activity itself – “Why am I watching YouTube right now, and does it excite me?” zooms out our awareness as a whole. This reflection is crucial.

I personally, have often rationalised my behaviour of consuming online/social media somthing along the lines of ‘spending time here has the potential of finding something valuable’. This is in fact the unspoken/implicit promise of social media. Which masks the truth that the whole machine is structured around you advertising.

For me, over all spending any more than 20mins on any social platform: twitter, instagram, youtube etc often does not justify the time invested. So the wider zoomed out question about what about this behaviour is exciting me throws up things like:

  • Whether my engagement is an intentional choice, or a mindless habit.
  • How this activity aligns with or distracts from my personal goals and well-being.
  • Am I getting any real payoff from time spent versus the potential for discovering something truly enriching.

The answer to point three is almost always …. no.

Coming back to one of the most important phrases I’ve ever written on my blog: ‘Your Attention is Sovereign‘.

Every act of discernment online represents a choiceβ€”whether conscious or notβ€”about where we direct our cognitive resources. By asking “What About This Excites Me?” we can perhpas slowly reclaim control over the choices we make in the present, future AND ones we’ve made in the past. This question isn’t just a reflection; it enables a recalibration of our engagement strategies toward more mindful, intentional consumption. It helps us refine our tastes and personal aesthetic sensibilities.

I’m as guilty as anyone about railing against algorithmic feeds that power the social seas. I’ve even had to go as far as hard blocking social media on my devices. What About This Excites Me? isn’t about producing or generating guilt, its about more conscious decision-making in areas of our life that we actually have more control over than we think.

I can … just put the phone down.

It also works the other way around. Sometimes people send me links to videos, articles etc and the question works there too. “What about this excites you?“. Ask them for more details beyond ‘I think it’s cool’. Ask them specifics, why is it cool? why do you like it? why did you want to share it with me etc/ You don’t need to do this for everything, all the time, as that would be too much.

But it is worth trying every now and then, when you become aware of the fact you have been sat at your laptop, or looking at your phone for a long time.

Permanently Moved

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The moment I finished editing this week’s show about Cal Newport’s Slow Productivity, I realised to my horror that I’d made it before. Doing the things that actually need doing, when they need getting done? Finishing Projects? It turns out that this is probably the greatest challenge of my life. 

I’m at a total loss.

Permanently moved is a personal podcast 301 seconds in length, written and recorded by @thejaymo

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