As September stalks in like an unwanted visitor, I thought it would be a good idea to reflect on what has happened in the month of August, and also whether I have grown since then.

As Melbourne is still in lockdown, the days amalgamate, the weeks blend into each other as there is essentially not much to demarcate one week from the next. In many ways this is isn’t great because time passes indefinitely without much notice. It is rather bizarre how time has passed so quickly since lockdown happened at the start of the year. I’ve found that the more I reflected, the more I realise how much time flies. In this check-in I’ll reflect on the good, the bad and the ugly, where the ugly things require purposeful goals to improve on.

The Good

Even though August seems to have flown by, much has happened in this month. One is that the vision of starting my own ‘online journal’ has been finally actualised, because I have been procrastinating on it for some time. But finally I have managed to do it and I am very thankful that I did.

The other is that I have been successful in shaving the time I’ve spent on YouTube. YouTube can be thought of as similar to fast food. It is fast, quick, and tastes good initially, but in the long term is actually quite unhealthy and detrimental to eat. I’ve made it a habit to stare at how much time that I’ve spent on YouTube each week and I gawk in exasperation each time. To think that I spend 7 hours of my week to watching things that realistically would have no long term impact! Sure they might be vaguely productive like productivity videos and classical music, but I can listen to classical music when I study. The horrible thing about YouTube is that good intentions are often ruined by YouTube recommendations, leading you into a rabbit hole of meaningless content and before you know it an hour has gone by. By my older brother’s recommendation I’ve downloaded a chrome extension that blocks all YouTube recommendations so that I only watch what I intended to watch. This has helped to curb consumption, but the phone is where things go awry. Through INTJ brute force I’ve managed to stare down my consumption from one hour a day to about thirty minutes a day which is a start, where I’ve tried to trade this time in reading books. I’ve tried to brute force down my YouTube consumption in the past, but I found that it didn’t work. So in trading this time for another activity, I’ve managed to trim consumption slowly. Moreover, what I’ve found that by speeding up YouTube videos, they become a lot less ‘fun’ to watch and so I stay off it a lot more.

If YouTube is fast food, books are a healthily constructed salad. In our modern world of the “information age”, content has never been so ubiquitous. Just by Googling, apparently 300 hours of videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute, and that is just YouTube. So in our world of essentially infinite choice of content, we need to pay careful attention as to what we consume. Books are different to YouTube in that good books take years to write, polish and refine. Books have such a long drafting process where the pages are sifted to hone in on what really needs to be said. In this way, books are a concise package of information that has been through a lot more consideration than a YouTube video. So over the past few months I’ve been slowly inculcating the habit to read, and in all honesty that has been one of the best choices that I have made so far in my life. I’ve never been a good reader, probably due to the way I was introduced to reading in high school. Reading books in high school were painted as a chore, where books were something to be dissected to no end through essays. Although it did provide some enjoyment, in our age of much consumable content, books took a back seat for me.

What changed I think was that I realised that when one reads, one reflects. And when one reflects, our perceptions of the world change. Of the things that I’ve read, I’ve come to the realisation that what makes a good book is that it is able to change your worldview. That it sparks a paradigm shift in your thinking. The larger the paradigm shift, the better the book. That might be a too utilitarian of a standard, but generally it makes sense that a book is only as good as what you get out of it. In this way, there should be no shame in how long you take to digest a book. Some books are so dense that you need to be a cow with four stomachs that incessantly chews in order to extract the most insights out of it. There is value in taking time to reflect as well as in pondering as to how we incorporate the principles of the book into our life and daily routine.

The Bad

I have been trying to analyse the behaviour on my phone usage for the past few weeks, and I found that I would open social media sites about 10-15 times a day. This accumulates to more than 100 times a week! I am really dumbfounded as to why would I do such a thing to myself. I observed that opening a social media app was more or less muscle memory, and there is some sort of obsessive compulsion to check during breaks of studying. This obsession is probably due to FOMO (fear of missing out), but realistically it is quite an unfounded compulsion. As a result, I’ve resolved to put my phone in a drawer in the farthest part of the house. Technically one can be efficient enough by just browsing social media once a day, batching it in a certain time and we wouldn’t miss out on much. It’s rather interesting how humans have created apps like Facebook, Instagram in such a way in order to try to maximise the endorphins of affirmation. They glue you to your screens with the only intention to make money out of you by you scrolling through ads that they’ve inserted. These apps aren’t necessarily bad, much good has come out of them as we can be connected in lockdown. But when consumption gets out of proportion, then it can get quite damaging.

The Ugly

So the goals for this month:

  • Check social media sites to roughly 3 times a day
  • YouTube consumption to 20 minutes a day.

Well, that’s all for the month of August and I’ll hope to do another reflection next month!