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?