We are the Average of the Content we Consume

Jim Rohn famously said “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This is no longer true. Today, it’s how we use the internet that determines who we are and what we become. We are the average of the content we consume.

When was the last time you went a day without watching a video of some sort? On YouTube alone more than 500 hours of content are uploaded every minute. This is the digital age – a time where people and ideas have never been more accessible.

Who are you the average of in today’s world? Well, who do you want to be the average of? There are more opportunities available now than there ever have been. Nowadays, we can hear from more people than we can even meet.

This is the new freedom: the freedom to surround ourselves with anyone. In the past, we were limited to our local environment. Not anymore.

Today, the internet grants us access to role models from anywhere in the world and on any topic. So while we are still a product of our environment, we can now shape that environment to an unprecedented degree.

And whether we realise it or not, we are shaping it each day. 

The more we tune into any one topic or any one person, the more we see similar videos, similar photos, similar influencers recommended to us in our feeds. This means, even if we aren’t using the internet to shape and influence our lives, it’s still shaping and influencing our lives.

This is because our perception of the world – and therefore how we act in it – is a result of the influences we’re exposed to. Who we listen to determines what we believe; what we believe determines how we act; and how we act determines who we become. 

We all have things we’d like to do and things we’d like to experience. The great thing about the internet is that we can find people who’ve achieved these things; we can learn from them and be inspired by them. We already do this to some degree, but what if we were more deliberate in our approach?

Make no mistake, actually using the internet to your advantage is harder than it seems. We’ve all heard of the downsides and we all know how easy it is to get distracted.

The challenge is that there’s no filter online. To play this game successfully, you’ve got to learn to create your own. You’ve got to decide on the ideas, people and topics you actually want to be engaging with. These can be whatever you want (and they’ll likely change), but once you know what they are, it becomes easier to cut through the noise.

One place to start is to assess the quality of your current influences. Take a look at the apps/websites you spend time on, the people you follow, and ask yourself “What effect is this having on the person I’m becoming? Do I want that effect? Are there any other influences I’d like to have in my life?”

That said, the point of this article isn’t to rank topics in terms of how beneficial they are; it isn’t to say that watching more content is better; and it definitely isn’t to suggest we subscribe to some hustle culture and stop having fun.

The point of this article is just to recognise that we are spending time online. And since the content we’re tuning into is shaping our lives, we should be deliberate in choosing what that content is if we’d like to make the most of this opportunity.

Jim Rohn was right in recognising the effect other people have on us. Through forces we don’t fully understand, we do gradually become like those around us – mirroring their behaviour, adopting their views, even just using similar words in conversation. The difference is, now we can be around anyone.