– Matthew McConaughey
There is too much advice online.
I find it confusing and frustrating and belittling, at times, but I have a confession to make.
I have a weakness for hack videos on YouTube.
If there is a video that promises to offer me advice to fix a problem, big or small, I am irresistibly curious if it’s going to be worthwhile. Even if the thumbnail assures me that the video will have nothing novel to present me, I still want to know if the creator has some secret tips to cure everyday stress or bad hair days or dirty bathrooms. (Note: I’ll be using the words advice, tips and hacks interchangeably. They all basically mean the same thing, anyway).
The thing is, I know hack videos are unlikely to teach me anything. I’ve watched a lot of lifestyle videos and have taken away very little because advice is rarely helpful.
Of all these videos I’ve watched, the most important tip I can remember is that I’ve been using bobby pins wrong my whole life (the curvy side goes down to better hold the hair), but actually, that tip wasn’t even from a hack video, it was part of a parody tutorial!
Beyond my mindless consumption of hack videos, I don’t tend to seek out advice, but I’m not a total advice curmudgeon. It can be helpful and I’ve gotten some good advice in the past. For example, my sister encouraged me to set aside spending money for myself every month because I have terrible buyer’s remorse, and that was incredibly helpful advice that I utilize to this day. My mom encouraged me to spend more time writing and thinking about what I want from my future because I get too caught up in thinking about what I should be doing with my life, and that was a very thoughtful tip that helped me get out of a negative circle of thoughts.
I know not everyone has loving sisters or mothers to turn to for advice, and there are communities that can be formed online in lieu of familial support, but I’m not talking about advice from an Internet friend, I’m talking about the sludge of advice that pops up when you Google anything with the words “how” or “why.” That’s the kind of advice that gets under my skin.
These articles and videos always have misleading titles that lure viewers in with the promise of an easy solution. Even though there are so many of these articles and videos to choose from, they often say a variation of the same thing. Unless we want to look at Wiki How to learn how to best slice an onion or fix a household appliance, these “how tos” will yield very little positive results. If you’re anything like me, these how to articles and videos in the self-improvement genre just increase any existing anxiety because there are too many “solutions.”
I want to further examine the varying tentacles of advice, so I’ve broken it down into four categories (or tentacles, if you will).
You should delete your Facebook account.
You should feed your children Organic produce.
You should wear a sleep mask to bed.
The inverse of each of these leads to a subcategory:
You shouldn’t delete your Facebook account.
You shouldn’t worry about feeding your children Organic produce.
You should never wear a sleep mask to bed.
What’s so confounding about this category of advice is that for every should, there’s a shouldn’t.
2.How it is
This category is similar to Should Yourself, except it relies on old adages that many of us have grown up being taught as undeniable truths.
“Early bird gets the worm” translates to:
You should go to bed early and wake up early.
“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” translates to:
You should always eat breakfast.
This category of advice will vary depending on your family or what you heard growing up. Perhaps you grew up around people who questioned these “undeniable truths,” but I definitely grew up believing that breakfast-eating-morning-people have it figured out. Then I got married to a night owl who gets nauseous when he eats too early in the morning and I realized that not everyone fits into this category.
This advice usually comes from well-meaning people. I’ll deny my cynicism here and say that even people who post this category of advice on the Internet probably mean well. They’re passionate about the solutions they’ve found in their own life and they think that because they’ve found something that works for them, that it will work for everyone else.
Have you tried . . .
What about . . .
I’ve been doing X for years and it works wonders. You should try it.
The category title makes this advice sound bad, but I actually think it can be the most helpful because it encourages us to figure it out for ourselves. Or, to find a counselor who can further encourage us to figure it out for ourselves.
Consult a professional.
I have personally found the most success whenever I’ve trusted myself to know what’s best rather than collect advice from others and contemplate which tips make the most sense. I’m also a lot happier when I don’t click on those “hack” videos because they’re honestly 6-10 minutes of my life wasted – Every. Single. Time.
Have you ever found a truly life-saving hack from an Internet video? What’s some advice you resent getting? What has been the most helpful advice you’ve ever received, and who gave it to you? (I’m going to wildly venture that you didn’t receive the most helpful advice of your life by Googling it or from watching a hack video).