The Information Diet: Introduction

November 3, 2010

I can not keep up with all the information that is out there that I want to consume. There are so many important news articles and stories to read; there are so many e-mails appearing in my inbox; there is the ever-present Facebook feed on which I keep finding myself; there are responses I want to write to all of these things. And this is just in the digital realm. Don’t even get me started on books I want to read, and it’s probably better not even to bring up movies. I don’t go to the movies much these days. (Except tomorrow I want to go see Waiting For Superman because I’m not sure it will be at the theater within walking distance of my apartment after tomorrow!)

We think that having more information at our fingertips is a good thing — and it is. In that way, it’s a lot like having more food available. Of course we want enough food; and once we’ve secured that, we want more delicious and nutritious food.

Or, as it turns out, we want more convenient food with high sugar content that sustains our cravings but doesn’t necessarily do much for us.

Lately I have been thinking that this is how my information consumption works, too. I sit down at the computer and mean to do something significant, but I find myself on Facebook.

But even when I’m not at the “sugary” sites, there’s just too much. It’s all good stuff, but I can’t keep up with it. I’m letting people down by not responding to their e-mails; I’m piling stuff up in the Firefox plug-in “Read It Later” much faster than I’m taking things off the pile.

It’s gotten to the point where this isn’t adding to my quality of life; it’s detracting from it.

For this reason, I’ve decided to actively monitor my information diet; and then, based on what I find, I’m going to go on a diet. We’ll see how it goes: I’ll keep you updated. Naturally, I’m deeming this blog “nutritious information” that I’m still allowed to consume (production in this sense being lumped in with consumption of time and energy). Of course, as with any diet, the idea is not to cease eating entirely as that would be highly unhealthy; the idea is to control what one eats and in doing so gain some kind of control over one’s life circumstances.

I’m curious whether any of you have “information diet” practices (whether you’ve ever called them that of not). If so, I’d love to hear about them: please share them in the comments!


One Response to “The Information Diet: Introduction”

  1. I’ve been on information diets. Mostly involuntarily, and kicking and screaming, but I’ve done them. I feel you on needing to cut things out. My problem is with social media and online communities. It doesn’t help that I want to go *work* in this area (which I’m sure you know already). It’s hard keeping the information in perspective, but that’s what I’ve found works best. Seeing social media as a tool/facilitator and NOT as a consumable helped me when I went on my week-long Facebook fast over the summer. It was odd…after a while I just didn’t NEED it anymore. I found myself having more time to think (notice I didn’t say, “I was more productive and I did more things”, but that I actually sat around and THOUGHT more than I already do). *But* I did have to do some research on it, so that had to stop.

    For example, I don’t read much of my email anymore. This is because I don’t have time. I do check it at least 10x/day, because I’m involved in a lot of things that are time-sensitive. If I don’t do them the world won’t EXPLODE, per se, but other people will be frustrated and so on, so it’s just best to keep tabs. And it’s hard not to be wired in when everybody else is

    With the things/emails that are TOTALLY within my control however, I already have them physically and mentally labeled. I make a to-do list every morning with things that I have to get done that day. I then go through emails. Everything that has nothing to do with what I have to do that day gets skipped. It also gets skipped if it’s labeled “Facebook Notification”, “Mail Listing Spam”, most things on “SI Open”, etc.

    The pros for this: I get through email quicker, I realize how much crap I’m getting isn’t helping me out at all, I can hopefully start panicking about something else that doesn’t require email (like my graphic design homework. EEK.) The cons are that: My inbox gets really big really fast, but I never really go through it and cut EVERYTHING out but once or twice a year, there’s a billion filters and I get them confused because there’s so many colors.

    If you want to see where you’re spending most of your time online, RescueTime is a free and ubiquitous way to find out, fyi.

    [I don’t know if that made any sense, but…it’s late, and I have more information to put out. Ha.]

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