You may not know that there was a period, not so long ago, when I was a YouTube addict. The story takes place during the same period of the roof top experience. It was 2018 and I was struggling to pick myself up from some recent life events that had affected me deeply. During this time, I was wholly focused on my work, my daughter and my health. That was it. There was very little else that received much of my attention and energy. It all started when one night, tired from a long day at work, I suddenly realised I had been watching YouTube videos for about 2 consecutive hours. I was suddenly jolted out of the entranced state I found myself in, and back into a clear and painful sense that I was genuinely wasting my time. There are two types of digital media consumptions in my opinion: 1. A deliberate, curated and purposeful one, where one actively pursues a line of enquiry and consumption aimed at satisfying a sense of curiosity and 2. An automatic, entranced and often meaningless one, where one finds themselves clicking on the next video that pops up, only because the algorithm has suggested it. I like to think that at least the first couple of videos I was choosing during those days, saw me in the first state, but it is apparent to me today, and largely at the time also, that I was mostly drawn into compulsively watching, without any sense of control or direction. Given that I am writing in the past tense, it will be apparent to you that today, I no longer partake in this behaviour. Allow me to share a view on what helped me wean myself off of the binge watching. THE STARTING POINT I do not recall what specifically triggered my awakening from the YouTube stupor, but I distinctively remember this sense of waking up, as if from a long sleep suddenly interrupted by a very loud noise. My first reaction was to put the phone down and reflect. Interestingly, I jumped from one entranced state to another, as I moved from passively watching videos, to passively seeing the last few months of my YouTube habits flashing in front of my eyes. I revisited the moment when about 6 months earlier I had installed the YouTube app on my phone, when I started searching for themes I was interested in, and when I decided to use the app while remaining logged in, so to make sure it would retain my watching history. I saw my habits change rapidly, from watching 3 to 5 videos at the time (45-60 minutes in total), to watching for up to 3 consecutive hours. I saw my consumption move from a conscious, curious search of interesting content, to a mindless clicking for consumption sake. I saw my broad sense of curiosity slowly, but inexorably, decrease to an almost mono-thematic consumption. I saw a sense of excited anticipation at the possibility of intriguing, new content, transform into a passive consumption. I saw my body posture change, from active and perky six months prior, to slouching and passive at that moment. It was difficult to witness all of this, but it revealed the realistic and terrifying view that I lost the ability to choose digital media. Digital media was now choosing me. THE SECRET INGREDIENT I hope you feel as terrified by my description as I felt at the moment when I was immersed in that experience. You may recognise yourself in this description, or maybe you ended up in an even deeper hole. Whatever the case, I came out of it and you can too! The core ingredient is one necessary, yet not sufficient, for a joyful, fulfilling and satisfying life. It is curiosity! Now, before you throw your device down in the disappointment that usually comes from over simplistic suggestions, let me emphasise, “necessary, yet not sufficient”. I am wanting to highlight the ingredient that I believe is at the centre of most human healing and wellbeing, not give a step-by-step recipe on how to wean ourselves off of addictions. In fact, I would suggest that with this ingredient honed to the max of our capacity, the rest would follow organically. After all, I can only discover what is at the end of a maze if I am curious enough to enter the maze and curious enough to surpass each of the ensuing obstacles.
Oh curiosity, you keep me moving! You reveal the medicine and help me heal. You uncover the truth and make me grow. You feed my curiosity and gift me with pleasant anticipation. You show me the way and alleviate my suffering. You bring teachers to my presence and multiply my impact in the world. You push me to look below the surface and allow me to discover love. You make me dive deep into the pain and allow me to connect to forgiveness. You guide me in the deepest recesses of my mind and reveal who I am. Oh curiosity!
Curiosity denotes a desire to learn or know about something. Desire denotes the emotion directed towards the attainment of something. The initial internal movie I saw about the last 6 months of my YouTube habits sparked a cascade effect of relentless curiosity. I don’t recall the exact sequence of events, but here is an example of what may have happened over the next few weeks in the weaning process. I may start with a question like, “how much am I watching?” The realisation that I was watching several hours per day would open up a new question. “What else could I be doing with this time today?” This would force me to assess my life and explore my genuine needs at the time. Which in turn would generate a new question. “What can I do to heal this pain?” And the process continued, from one domain of exploration to another, from one answer, to one question, to one answer, to one question. A few weeks later, I had uninstalled the app from my phone, replaced my unhealthy watching habits with healthier pursuits and I soon enough stopped missing the consumption. There were times when I would catch myself opening the phone to mindlessly watch some videos, but I would then realise the app was gone, which would kick off the process all over again. “What happened just now that compelled me to reach for the phone?” I would spend a moment feeling into the thoughts and emotions, and perhaps realise I was feeling lonely, and I would ask: “what healthy ways do I have access to now to address my loneliness?” At times, there would be no available, healthy options and I was left with just sitting with my thoughts or emotions, which proved to be equally invaluable, as it made me realise I was a lot stronger and resilient than I was feeling and that I could actually handle the internal pain without making use of any external reward mechanism. Without curiosity there can be no progress. As long as my mental capacity remains intact I will never cease to be curious. There is so much to discover and always something wondrous to enjoy. At times, the curiosity will be fast paced and relentless, at other times, it will be quieter and more organic, and I just cannot imagine a life without it. We all have it, and yet, at some point or another, we all loose track of it. What happens? We loose an active sense of curiosity and often end up in this entranced state where we expect life to happen spontaneously, when we rely on external sources (our partner, our work, our children, substances or experiences) to feel alive and significant. We create a dependency to a range of external sources, and as long as those sources are flowing, we are flowing. The moment they dry up or we loose access to them, we become ill and start withering. My story revolves around YouTube, yours could be with social media, alcohol, sex, love, romance, reading, gambling, shopping or any other source of external pleasure and satisfaction that we have used as surrogate. The process is always the same. Apply a deep, focused sense of curiosity to your reality and the answers will be revealed, including the answers pointing you to external resources and people that you need to integrate in your life to heal and grow. I invite you to reconnect and rediscover that part of you filled with desire to discover, learn and explore, it will open up a whole new range of wonderful adventures that are just right for you.
Thank you for reading. I base all my articles on real case studies and research findings that are relevant to my work and my clients. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or if you would like to explore something together.