Calm and collected? That was before. Calm because we would collect with like-minded people at stadiums, churches, coffee shops, restaurants.

Now, we’re calm and connected. Calm because we can connect with like-minded people through Zoom rooms, Skype calls, virtual co-working spaces, blogs (my favorite), email newsletters, social media groups.

Of course, connecting is not the same as collecting. Lag exists. It’s impossible to replicate eye contact online. There’s a shortage of webcams. We can’t connect to everyone because there are still millions of Americans without access to the Internet.

But what we can do is choose to not squander our opportunity to stay calm and connected. We can choose not to spread narratives panic and fear. We can choose to be Beacons, not tabloids. We can choose to be calm and connected instead of connected and chaotic.

Panic and fear is easy for us to accept because it’s familiar – it comes to us in newspapers and televisions and social media feeds – sources that most of us have easy access to. Panic and fear is easy to accept because our lizard brain (the part of our brain that tries to warn us about upcoming danger and threat) accepts it for us automatically.

Positive change is difficult to accept because it’s new and different than what we’re used to. A YouTube channel about the positive benefits of meditation is foreign to us if we’re used to an information diet of panic and fear. To stay calm and connected, we need to change our information diets.

We can change our information diets by understanding how the content-seeking algorithms of our favorite websites work – and how the content-seeking algorithms work like our lizard brain. Type in ‘meditation’ into YouTube, and it’s like the algorithm starts to think, “oh, this person must be into minimalism and yoga and books by Thich Nhat Hanh. I’m going to recommend more of those things.” Our lizard brain works this way, except the default keywords for our lizard brain are ‘panic’ and ‘fear’. The good news is that we can override these defaults by choosing the keywords ourselves, quieting the lizard brain and reinforcing the algorithms to show us content that’s both informative and enjoyable. In this way, we become calm and connected instead of connected and chaotic.

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