Media is a Denial of Service Attack on Your Brain

Thank you Baratunde for such an interesting concept: you can overwhelm a system with compelling nonsense.

Let me flesh out the Trump example and then pivot to something that might be happening to you personally.

In the Trump world things change so quickly that I need to date this post. It’s Tuesday, October 11th, 2016.

The bleeding heart liberal media was trying to pin Trump down on tax evasion and fraud as recently as last week. They were getting pretty close too, with leaked documents and analysis of his donations that were leading to quid-pro-quo political payoffs and tax evasion.

Then the Access Hollywood video hit. And that turned into a 48-hour media event that seemed like it would snowball into a Cosby-style stream of women verifying that Trump assaulted them.

The video leaked on Friday. On Monday, news hit that Trump was parroting niche Russian propaganda within 24 hours of that propaganda being published in Russian-language state-controlled propaganda. Charitably people are saying Trump is Putin’s pawn. That’s the charitable interpretation because the other interpretation is that he’s a traitor.

So, when is the media going to go back to finishing the taxes story? They got far enough to raise the alarm. But the story hasn’t been covered in depth enough for the accusations to be fully vetted and understood.

In other words, the stream of scandals distracts the media before they can ever reach a conviction. That’s the denial of service.

Hah hah, silly journalists are getting played.

But, what about you and me? Baratunde got me thinking if it was possible to run a denial of service on anything directly related to me.

The answer is yes.

We have a daily question at work and a recent variant was: “What’s the third biggest story of the last 12 months?”

Obviously, since I was just telling you about Trump, the election was the top story.

Less obvious, but also big for two of us in the discussion, the Golden State Warriors were second. If you’re a Warriors fan then the last year was an all consuming experience.

After those two, we were stumped. It took more than a minute before someone offered up anything. If you had to answer, what would you have answered?

For us, the first suggestion was Beyonce’s Lemonade. But it took awhile to come up with that.

Most importantly, I was a surprised by how thoroughly two media stories had taken over my life. I know that I got out of bed every day, worked, did good work even, moved, saw a few movies, watched some good TV, hung out with friends, exercised almost every day. I even used my passport.

But the onslaught of compelling stories from those two media topics have taken root in my brain and blocked out my memories of everything else. That’s a denial of service attack.

That’s my memory. And my memory is there to serve me. Or at least that’s how I’d like it to work.

The media works hard to be addictive and now I’m wondering if I need to work equally hard to be mindful.

Every year, I do a gratitude practice where I list out 52 highlights from my year. In the past, when I explain the value of that list, I talked in terms of reframing the year for gratitude, as in “Look how great the year was — thank you universe.”

But now, I’m looking at the list in a different light: rewiring my memories. Who should choose what I remember from each year? Me. Obviously me!

Human potential busy body. Founded @coachdotme, @bttrHumans, @bttrMarketing. Helped @medium @calm. Current work focus: Habit Coach Certification.

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