Coming up for air

slowing down in the age of fast content

These days, I feel like I am drowning in a sea of content. I scroll through screams on social media, binge on Netflix shows, and join so many readathons. My list of things to read or watch or follow keeps growing and growing and growing, and I feel the pressure to spout something about each just to signal to others that I’m in the loop.

But I haven’t really thought about it, so should I say something? More importantly, how do I process these things?

Metacognition means thinking about your thinking. It’s the awareness you have about your own ways of knowing: how you grapple with concepts, how you organize information in your head, how you attack a problem, and so much more. This is unique to each person, and it is largely influenced by how you were taught to think, what you are conditioned to notice, and what you have experienced in the past. Some of my questions about a piece of content will be similar to those previously raised by others, and some are entirely different and downright strange. Some conclusions I have are similar, but how I got there is a journey through a separate mental continent.

Metacognition is personal and unique. What makes perfectly common sense to me may not be for you, and vice versa.

As a teacher, this bleeds into every aspect of my work. I have to break down what I know about a topic because I cannot assume that my students have the same mental shortcuts that I do. I have to design my sessions and task instructions carefully to account for differences in ways of thinking. I have to pace myself so that my students can understand how I think and hopefully pick up some strategies that can help them do the same. I often ask my students to try defining their identity, because this influences the lens they use to view the world. I slow down my own thought processes so that I can determine how I can help others think on their own.

Writing all that down sounds so… exhausting. No wonder I sleep like the dead after class. Honestly, I’m sick of this newfangled buzzword mentioned in every other article in pedagogy that I read, but the concept does come in handy when I work. Having high metacognitive skills as a teacher helps me not only be more sensitive to what my students need, but also to interrogate any biases I carry before blasting them out into the open.

As a reader, though, I feel like I have lost all my metacognitive skills. I just scroll through my feed, go “huh, that sounds interesting”, share a post that vaguely matches my opinions, and move on to the next viral thing. I don’t know if I actually agree with the post, or if I just like how it is written. Though I am unnerved by leaps in logic between the post and the quoted material, I do not take the time to ask why I feel that way. Most of the time, I do not remember the actual content at all. It is easier to just scream along with the crowd and to let everything just wash over me. These days, my lungs are too filled to even muster a whisper.

Can I still infer and conclude from a given text? Can I still predict where this trend will go next? Can I still analyze and point out inconsistencies in discourse? Can I still articulate what I know and what I still wish to know? Can I still examine evidence on my own without any help? If I were to be away from the Internet for one day, am I confident in what I think without needing to seek validation from others?

It makes me wonder if I am still in charge of how I think, or if I am simply carried by the current of issues that flood my feed every single day. I am constantly in awe of people who have thoughtful takes on content they like, whether a book or series or even a TikTok series, and I know that there is nothing wrong with boosting their voices especially if it is their space to occupy. However, I am loath to admit that if I try to scramble my brains for my own opinion–no matter how messy or tangled or poorly worded–I come up empty-handed. Sharing a post then feels like a mental shortcut borne not out of years of reflections, but out of laziness to try coming up with my own takes.

In this blog, I want to start writing about content I like. I want to be more thoughtful and to share opinions that I can stand by. I want to slow things down and be reacquainted with how I think. I have been swimming furiously to keep up with the rest of the crowd, not realizing that my limbs are tired and I am slowly sinking into the cold, dark depths of mindlessness. I need to come up for air before I drown.

Part of that is my new project called Margin Letters, and you can find more about that here. Actually, this post is supposed to be an announcement for it, but because my rambles are getting too long, I decided to go ahead and publish it in a separate post.

Question: How much time do you spend on thinking about the content you read, hear, or see?

7 thoughts on “Coming up for air”

  1. I have SO MUCH to say on this post. (this is blog post length, sorry for the ramble lol)

    First, “I have to break down what I know about a topic because I cannot assume that my students have the same mental shortcuts that I do.“ While I know that people think differently and what makes sense to me will not make sense to other people, Are you still kind of expect people to have the same mental shortcuts as me. I thought it was universal and actually get frustrated when my friends don’t go from A to D like I do. My way of thinking actually helps my job and I would definitely struggle with my friends’ jobs, but you specifying that we have different mental shortcuts is a lightbulb moment for me right now.

    Second, metacognition. I did not know what it was before today, and now I am glad to know about it. Are used to spend a lot of time evaluating how I think and behave and process things, and it helped me know myself a lot and I could articulate my thoughts better. Nowadays I go for journalling which helps but not exactly in the previous way. With the pandemic, Ive been scared to take time out to think because the few times I did, I overthink and worry myself. So i’m putting self-reflection on hold for a bit.

    Since I stopped that, one other thing has been increasing. Doomscrolling. Not doom exactly but just going through a lot of content without thinking too much about it. I actually don’t like that I’m doing it but that’s the only thing that I am able to do in the middle of my busy day. It is the age of fast content because content is available so easily. I read somewhere that we consume more content in a day than Neanderthals did in their entire life time and more than how much monks used to consume in a decade. It has changed my perception so much recently. I’ve been thinking about what I am consuming, how I am consuming those content, and what i’m doing with them. In most cases, my mind discards it all. Sometimes random things stick in my brain and take up space that is required for other things. I just one thing about how much unnecessary content I’ve been consuming and how to slow down with it. How do you prioritise what content I want to see and discard what I don’t want to see. One way is reading more blogs instead of Twitter or Instagram because I genuinely like reading blog post and they are good content that I want to consume. Short form content with short lives on social media is not good for me.

    This blog post of yours, and pretty much every blog posts of yours tbh, is proof that I love reading blogs more because of this AMAZING content through which I learn and which makes me take a minute and ruminate. We need more content like this and less of twitter trends and viral comedic takes.

    Lastly, you’re such a good teacher?! The fact that you think so much in order to be a better teacher and help your students is amazing. I wish I had a teacher like you.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you for rambling! I love reading it 💖

      1) Yes, knowledge-building is such a personal thing, and there’s a lot more nuance to it than meets the eye. Being more aware of how others think and why they think the way they do is also as important as being intimately familiar with our own thought processes, and it’s both fascinating and incredibly frustrating on my end 😅

      2) Yay, I’m glad to introduce you to this concept! It’s not as scary or mysterious as other pedagogical experts make it sound: it’s simply a matter of being able to articulate your own thought process and giving your own labels to your specific mental shortcuts. Hope the key word gets you Googling because there’s a lot about it that might enrich your reflection sessions!

      3) Much of the intense metacognition I detailed here is pretty much part of the standard job description, and it’s built into why lesson plan templates and instructional strategies are made *that* way. I actually have drafts of blog posts explaining how lesson plans are made and can be adapted to reading journals! I do wish I can get them out of development stage soon, maybe after life stops getting in the way. And aww thank you for being kind 🥺 I’m well aware of my flaws as a teacher, and I’m actually not going back into a classroom for the foreseeable future. I’ll miss it, but my blog is still a classroom of its own, so it’s not much of a loss since I’ll still be able to reach people here.

      Like

      1. Oh you’re not going back? Unfortunate that you’ll miss it but I hope you’re able to do you want to do! And your blog is definitely a classroom of sorts, I’m clearly learning here haha.

        Liked by 1 person

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