It is logical to feel overwhelmed by all the chaos and noise on the internet, social media, and the negativity in the news, but in this 10-minute read, you will learn four simple shifts that will vastly improve what you see on the screens in your life and give you a refreshingly positive worldview.
The following is derived from my book, Happiness is an Option, which dives deeper into every sentence you will read below. You can continue this journey to take control of your life online with the book after you enjoy these excerpts!
Want Access to a More Positive Worldview? Let’s get to it!
First, I want to assure you that you were right to keep hope burning in your heart for humanity–and the future. It is still an amazing world.
What we see on the internet is just a slice of reality. There is an enormous wave of goodness and progress well underway in the world that almost no one knows about because it is hidden from view: buried by all the fear and anger that seems to be rising to the top. In a few minutes, you’ll know why it was wise for you to keep going back to the internet, always hoping to find something worth taking in, some inspiration, or just a simple answer to a question.
I suspect you knew that humanity had another side that was ingenious, helpful, and measured in its approach, even though the “evidence” on the web rarely pointed to this basic fact. And your common sense told you that you should be able to look up a recipe for squash without having to see the fight about microwaves that’s broken out in the comments section! Your instincts were right to tell you that goodness and progress all had to be there somewhere. And that yes, the system just wasn’t connecting you to that part of the story.
And here’s why: The internet–for now–has become an “attention economy.” Nothing matters there but what we give our attention to—nothing! Content creators are cleverly using our most irresistible and primitive impulses—fear, anger, and scarcity—to capture and hold onto our attention.
The two most important words of that paragraph are for now. If just 25 percent of us understood the game being played with our emotions in our online lives, the internet would change overnight. Things like good intention, honesty, ingenuity, kindness, collaboration, joy, and pulling together would rise to the top. We can usher in a new day.
We do not need to be at war with each other. We could be collaborating instead of competing. We could change contempt for each other to curiosity and find unlimited creative solutions. We could use our differences as the wild mix of ingredients in the recipe for win/win solutions, and we could move forward.
We need absolute clarity about the fact that the internet is a “tool”, nothing more, and just like the hammer it can be used to build unimaginably good things, or it can demolish our shared future. I am certain that the thought leaders we have written about for Goodness Exchange are showing us how to innovate our way right out of this dark era.
The 4-Shifts I’m going to share with you next are a crack of light under the door right now, but after time—if you follow them tenaciously—you will grow to feel invincible and that will radiate outward to others.
I was honored to give the closing talk for one of the oldest and largest TEDx conferences in the U.S. in 2020. This video will teach you about the 4-Shifts AND the Conspiracy of Goodness in our times.
A few important secrets of the internet…
Experience tells me that if we all understood a few fundamental facts about the internet, it could become an astonishing force for good in our lives. It could help us reach our full potential and see infinite possibilities for progress. We could fill our free time there with more joy and wonder than we might ever imagine, expand our positive worldview, and society as a whole would leap forward.
So, let’s start with the knowledge that the internet is an attention generating machine. It is not a window onto reality and it is not giving us an accurate picture of each other and the world around us. What we are seeing on the screens in our lives is determined by what we clicked on last. Algorithms and content creators are counting every click we make and we are simply getting more of what we give our attention to, as individuals and as a whole internet community.
So to simplify this, here’s the first of four simple shifts that I am recommending for all of us:
SHIFT #1: PAUSE before you engage with anything on the internet.
Here’s the first thing you need to do to take control of your online life and start seeing the good on the internet: Pause before you click on anything.
Don’t give a millisecond’s time or attention—not a click, like, share, comment, swipe, or any engagement—to anything you don’t want to see more of. Because someone is counting every click you make. Every click you make is like a VOTE, because someone is counting every click we make. And what we click on, we will get more of. It’s that simple.
We humans evolved to optimize our chances of survival. Our brains are hardwired to make signs of disorder and danger the center of our attention, and the internet is built to favor that demand. It is not built to bring emotions like joy, wonder, peace, hope, love, beauty, gratitude, or kindness to the top of our minds. But, if we can only pause for a millisecond before we click, we have the ability to put things in perspective and more carefully decide what we give our attention to. We can look at that piece of negative content—a mean social media posting, an eye-catching photo, or a scary headline—and we can say, “Hey, they are just trying to get me to click on that!” and we can pass on it.
SHIFT #2: IGNORE the Chaos-builders.
We can ignore things into obscurity. Can’t decide who is being unhelpful? Before you click, ask yourself: “Do we need more of this?”
Over time, this small shift in what you give your attention to will change what you see on the screens in your world. It will solve a lot of internet-related stress, too. If many of us simply stopped giving our attention to (or stopped clicking on) things we know are not making the world a better place for everyone, then mass media would respond very quickly. Because silence (aka no clicks) means the end of most internet endeavors.
You know how everyone frets over the scams, the outrage, and the manipulation on social media? Well, that sort of rampant, unhelpful negativity would have no traction at all if no one clicked on it. Almost any conspiracy we see on the internet would have no leverage – no power to hijack the future – if people didn’t click on it.
We simply need to reserve our clicks, our shares, and our comments for the people and places who are making a trustworthy attempt to get us all to a better future.
My advice: reserve your attention in your online life for “the helpers.” They are the people who exclude no one and cast no stones: the people who seem to be making an honest attempt to be measured, collaborative, and curious. They are rare, but they are out there, ready to rise to the top.
Oh, and here’s a very practical tip that I go much deeper into in the book I wrote about these shifts: Stop clicking in “ABC” mode.
If you want to stop much of the chaos and noise on the internet from coming your way, I recommend that you stop clicking out of Anger, Boredom, and random Curiosity. We all do it! We mindlessly scroll, scroll, scroll and click in and out of things, stopping only for a millisecond. It’s the kind of scrolling and clicking we often do while passing time eating lunch or sitting in a waiting room, et cetera.
Unfortunately, when we do a lot of mindless scrolling and random clicking on negativity or unimportant content, we are teaching the algorithms that this is what we want to see. And that’s what we get more of! And it’s almost a certainty that we are NOT seeing a huge number of other things that might be WAY more positive and uplifting.
There is just so much mediocre, meaningless, and just plain mean clickbait that is rising to the top on the internet, but once we can recognize the game being played with our emotions, a new era will begin. The key to reversing what rises to the top for both you and the world is what we ignore! We’ve got to start pausing before we click and ignoring anything that is not helpful and thoughtful.
The people who are adding to all the noise, negativity, and outrage on the internet need each of us to engage them, or they are powerless.
SHIFT #3: SEEK signs of goodness and progress.
Don’t just let news come at you randomly. If all we know is what the news or social media decides to tee up for us each day, we are bound to think the world (and our future) is a dumpster fire. Instead, prepare for a brighter future by looking for signs of progress and you will walk right into it!
We can’t expect to be happy or have a positive worldview if we only know what comes our way by accident or by algorithm. Taking the time to know more, making time to seek goodness and progress… that could be one of the most valuable changes we make as a result of this tumultuous chapter in history.
I often daydream about what would be possible if everyone, every day, saw the things we see on our screens at Goodness Exchange. An enormous wave of goodness and progress is happening all around us.
There is an innovator who has discovered how to save all the remaining rainforest in the world using old cell phones, a bra that can detect breast cancer, and a project that demonstrates how we can grow the equivalent of a two-acre garden in one shipping container. There are organizations using dogs to detect signs of seizures in humans before they happen and veterans helping each other cope with PTSD through the practice of beekeeping. I could go on and on!
When the internet and the news is dragging you down, remember this:
What we see on the internet is only one slice of reality.
My decisions every day are vastly improved by having learned about the stories of new insights and people of all walks of life-solving big problems. Just think how an increase in your knowledge about the world and the goodness “out there” would improve the way you handle a personal or professional crisis. You then would have a much broader perspective on how big the crisis actually is, as well as many more ideas and choices that might lead you forward in unexpected ways. expanding your worldview would show you that you are part of a bigger picture, which would help you not let a personal or professional crisis dominate your life.
Think of the inspiration you can draw from knowing more about the vast group of problem solvers who are out in the world, successfully transforming what is possible. More importantly, repeated exposure to stories of people who are incredibly generous, brave, or clever will give you a sense of grace in how you react to your neighbors, your extended family, friends, and even the person behind you in the line at the coffee shop.
To be more patient, thoughtful, and helpful we need to be inspired by what can come of those more measured responses, and the thought leaders solving some of the world’s most vexing problems are teachers for all in that way.
Know more about what’s possible and one or two problems will not dominate your life. With a wider view on all the good that’s happening, you become the thoughtful, helpful, spreader of insights in your own circles and that can change the world for others.
SHIFT #4: SHARE signs of goodness and progress for all.
We have the true power to bend the attention economy of the internet in a positive, meaningful direction. The momentum comes from what we share.
We all know that what we share has the ability to spread to every corner of the web. This is as equally true of stories of goodness and progress as it is for those of chaos. The people who create the news and content for the web then move on to meet whatever we are giving our attention to.
We can use that insight to usher in a new era together. And we can continually amplify a positive worldview that becomes contagious.
When I say “share” the goodness, I want to clarify a really practical insight—there is a vast difference between a “like” and a “share.” A “like” is a nice little gesture that gets seen by our closest friends. A “share,” on the other hand, goes out to hundreds, if not thousands, and can begin a wave that takes on a life of its own.
So, when you see that story of the neighborhood kid who raised four hundred dollars for the animal shelter, don’t just “like” it—please“share” it. It is remarkable that a 10-year-old would help homeless pups so significantly. Your share can inspire his peers and all of us to courageously do our own part. These are the things that need sharing that will add to this wave of progress I’m pointing you toward today!
Goodness can be viral, too.
The thought leaders who are building a better future for all of us need our clicks and our shares.
Remember, most people who are trying to solve problems—be it bullying, littering, or climate change—are toiling away in obscurity in quiet corners of the internet, fighting for every mention in the press they can muster. And because they are not winning the attention game, they do not get the support they need to thrive and become an example of progress for us all.
The rationale for the fourth small but critical shift is simple: if we stop giving our clicks to the chaos-builders on the internet, as my second shift suggests, the negativity will inevitably shrink in volume. But that’s only part of it. In order to usher in a new era of goodness and progress, we have to consciously replace that negativity with things that support our chance to create a better shared future.
With the knowledge that every click we make is a vote, we can each be part of making positive content rise to the top.
The power in that effort will be what we share.
The 4 Shifts Can Open a New Era
Countless innovators have ingenious solutions to our most vexing problems; they are just waiting to be “discovered” and celebrated. Only then can they scale up and change the future. We can make that happen if we:
PAUSE before we click on anything. Your click is a “YES” vote.
IGNORE MORE. We can ignore the chaos-building into obscurity.
SEEK signs of goodness and progress! (The internet, for now, will not bring it to you.)
SHARE the goodness you discover around you.
With those four simple shifts, you get to retrain the algorithms that are serving you what you see next and send content creators a strong message that you will ignore everything that is not being helpful and thoughtful, and instead, support positive internet content.
Once you know more about the wave of progress and goodness, start having more real conversations about possibility with your friends, your kids, your co-workers, even strangers.
We need to start to tell ourselves a new story and open a new era as individuals and for the world.
That can all happen now. If you start using these 4 Shifts in your online life, the world that you wake up to every morning will start to feel like a place where almost anything is possible. Because it is.
Our Goodness Exchange journey has taught us that there is no end to the people and projects aimed specifically at improving the future.
Here’s what to do after you finish this 10-minute read:
- Become a Goodness Exchange Member and join us every day for an uplifting leap in your knowledge about what’s possible. (This is the best way to have an immediate spring in your step!)
- Download the Goodness Exchange App on your mobile device.
- Get the book, Happiness is an Option, for many more stories and tips for seeing all the goodness and progress around you.
- When you start your own waves of goodness, tell us about it on Instagram or Facebook!
Happiness is an option. We can thrive (instead of just survive) in the era of the internet. And with these insights, now you know how to get started. Cultivate a positive worldview and you can change your life.
Stay open, curious and hopeful!
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- YouTube. (2020, December 9). Exposing the conspiracy of goodness. | lynda ulrich | tedxnaperville. YouTube. Retrieved February 20, 2023, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbHtb2kptVE&t=543s ↩