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The age of too much information

Have you ever been deprived of something and wanted more? Are you becoming mentally obese? It could be a result of your information diet.

Amelia Davis

By Amelia Davis, 16 November 20234 minute read

Have you ever considered that there is such a thing as ‘too much’? We tend to behave differently when we have something in excess. This is a theme that spoke to me after attending SXSW with the team at Luminary. 

Whether it be money, power, choice or even free time, when we have a resource in abundance, things get a little strange. That’s even more true if that same resource used to be scarce. Our relationship with it changes, and we never seem to navigate that change well. Take food for example, we know over the years it has become more and more abundant and accessible to the general population. But when you have more of something, it allows for the quality to take a drastic dip. 

Within a single lifetime, this same thing has happened with information. Years ago it used to be scarce. You had to either read your local newspaper or watch TV to hear and read about what was going on in the world. But now information is readily available to us everywhere, and at any time we choose. That doesn’t make it a good thing though!

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Our information diet

Take this into consideration. We always talk about diets. Typically these tend to take into account the food and drink we physically consume day to day. Overconsumption and a poor diet can cause obesity, amongst other health issues. But what about the information we consume every day? We never take into account what our brain is consuming. Naturally, there are good and bad sources of information. There are sources of information that inspire us, but there are others that can deprive us. Modern society is sadly setting us up to be overwhelmed. 

There’s a form of pressure that we have to always be informed through news, social media, internet browsing and more. In the age of media, there are algorithms tailoring the information presented to us, forcing us to become accustomed to negative news that we begin to lose sentiment. We’ve become expectant of and intrigued by the chaotic rather than the optimistic. We’ve also become susceptible to absorbing false information due to its sheer abundance. All of this leads to an overconsumption of information which can have a negative impact on our mental wellbeing.

A closer look at the 'food' groups

With all the dubious outlets for information, be it at work, or in our day-to-day lives, there is a growing need for us to go on an ‘information diet’. Like any other diet, you focus on the good. You allow for moderation or the occasional cheat meal, and you don’t overconsume. Just like junk food can cause obesity, a lack of fitness and other health problems, bad or junky information can equally cause a lack of productivity, efficiency, creativity and inspiration. Essentially, we need balance. At their core, information diets have four food groups. These are:

  1. Passive-Effortless → Watching TV, scrolling through Facebook/Instagram, or consuming videos from TikTok/Snapchat
  2. Passive-Effort → Reading something you enjoy, consuming news or watching a documentary
  3. Conscious-Effortless → Reading a how-to guide, hanging out with your friends or playing video games
  4. Conscious-Effort → Engaging in a hobby, work/school or study

We can only consume a limited amount of food per day before feeling sick, much like how we can only retain or absorb so much information each day before feeling burnt out or overloaded. The quality of information we consume can determine our daily productivity and desire for success. Using these four information groups, we can curate what and how much we consume to create a healthy information diet. Essentially our goal is to eliminate unnecessary information that distracts us, and rather to focus on information that helps us. 

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What can we gain from a conscious information diet

Regulating our intake of information can come with a wide variety of mental health benefits too. Some examples include:

  • Being able to reduce our anxiety and depression
  • Improving our overall focus by limiting distractions from unnecessary information 
  • Calming an overactive mind that may be spiralling or unable to switch off
  • Then naturally from the above three, improving our sleep

Our brains are hardwired and designed to process and consume information. It's the most powerful computer in the world. So it's perfectly healthy to feel a bit of hunger for information every now and then. It's all about your intake though. Whether we care to admit it or not, the information we’re exposed to on a daily basis drastically impacts and influences us. Yet, we lack the mental capacity to critically evaluate every piece of information we receive, leaving us vulnerable to confusion, manipulation and simply becoming burnt out. Information is readily available all around us. We need to learn how to filter out the noise, deal with the excess and consume it in a healthier way. Doing so will allow us to turn this abundance of information into something that can motivate and inspire us.

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