If you subscribe to any one of the myriad streaming services out there, chances are you’ve seen and maybe even clicked on a movie from the “Because you liked…” section which offers recommendations the platform thinks you’ll enjoy based on what you’ve previously watched.
This is a great feature, and I’ve found some hidden gems this way BUT there is a hidden danger to the over-curation of content in your news feed and the media that you consume – a narrowing of perspective. Instead of actively seeking out something new, you are passively consuming content that offers similar perspectives and stories while inadvertently passing over something that could trigger a paradigm shift or new viewpoint.
I love Netflix. There I said it.
I’m reminded of a time, at one of our company Christmas parties, where we were encouraged to note on our name tags what we liked to do in our spare time as an ice-breaker. In the interest of honesty, I hastily scribbled “Netflix” on mine (don’t judge me), which led to some great “this is the best show you’re not watching on Netflix” conversations for the rest of the night, and provided me with an amazing list of shows to get me through what promises to be a long, cold Canadian winter.
And while Netflix is certainly on the top of my list of couldn’t-live-without essentials, I am also somewhat wary of my favourite TV viewing platform. While I appreciate that Netflix is always trying to present me with recommended shows it thinks I’ll like based on my viewing tastes, this also means that what I see when I open up Netflix is a very neat, tidy, curated view.
I often wonder whether there’s a whole world inside of Netflix that I just don’t see based on the way the algorithm filters my content.
Now, I know what you’re thinking – “what’s the big deal that I’m getting curated content on my Netflix? I actually like some of the recommendations I get.” That’s great!
And I’m the first to admit that with the plethora of data and options out there, curated media can be a blessing; it can help to apply a useful, personalized filter to dampen the noise of all that data and after a long day at work, selecting something to watch from your curated recommendations can eliminate the stress of decision fatigue.
I’ve suffered myself from the tyranny of choice, and have wasted many an hour rifling through the seemingly endless viewing options. But the insidious side of this conversation is that this is just one tiny example of the ways that the lenses through which we see the world can be clouded by filters.
Just as media platforms like Netflix, Youtube, and Amazon market content to us that they think we want to see, we ourselves can fall victim to the same type of narrowing of perspective in our day-to-day lives.
We tend to affiliate ourselves with people like us (for obvious reasons, it’s great to have things in common with our friends and colleagues), but that also means that we can inadvertently insulate ourselves from different perspectives that might challenge our way of thinking, or that might present an alternative, disruptive, and uncomfortable – but possibly better – way of doing things.
So I want to offer this piece of advice when it comes to finding the balance between the dangers of curated content and the effects of decision fatigue…
Don’t let the comfort of curated content cause you to disengage from decision making. Let’s challenge ourselves to change the way we engage with the media that we consume on a daily basis – shake things up; embrace diversity, be curious, investigate what’s in the margins, question the filters you apply to your way of thinking, and challenge predictability.
Ignore your own mental algorithms from time to time. You may find that going off-list and off the beaten path opens up new doors and new perspectives that you never would have considered. And you might just really like the results.
Instead of mindless scrolling through your recommendations, maybe pick a topic that you’ve been interested in exploring further and see where that leads you.
If you really want to challenge your way of thinking, why not explore our Leadership Development opportunities? Break old habits and embrace the habits of highly effective leaders. You can get more information here.
This blog post was originally published in 2019 and has been updated with new content.