There are 4.4 million blog posts written, 720,000 hours of video uploaded to YouTube and 5,519 podcast episodes published online. It is overwhelming — and the problem is only getting bigger. The dominance of social media, the emergence of the creator economy, and progress around artificial intelligence and web3 are all accelerating the speed at which content is put out to the world. Consequently, the need to talk about a healthy information diet increases every day.
- The amount of information available to us is overwhelming and is only getting bigger.
- Solutions that focus on "doing it all" or employing simple filters are flawed.
- A healthy information diet involves a set of systems, tools, and practices that help us engage with a good sample of information, remove noise, expose falsehoods, and encourage active discussion.
- Our information diet is growing in importance as we are exposed to ever more content.
- To stay sane and effective in this new reality, we need to take ownership of the solution by being mindful of what we are consuming.
Access to knowledge
Just 30 years ago access to knowledge was sparse. At best, it meant finding the right person, at worst, weeks in a library sifting through books. The information available to us was limited by gatekeepers with their own agendas, publishing or curating what they deemed appropriate. On theone hand, we should celebrate these barriers disappearing. On the other, it means we are confronted with a new problem: information overload.
And that information is not often of great quality.
The speed of change around us increases the amount of information we consume every day, resulting in a race to stay on top of all the latest developments. The fear of missing out (FOMO) makes us sift through tons of rubbish just to find occasional gems.
Current solutions to this problem fall into two categories:
Shallow engagement — trying to stay on top of it all; and/or
Narrow engagement — employing simple filters at the top of the information funnel, removing what we don’t agree with
Both are fundamentally flawed.
Solutions focusing on “doing it all’’ are doomed to fail. If you think Blinkist allows you to read a book in 15 minutes, you’re wrong. If you think speed-reading doesn’t affect your understanding, think again.
(And although social media provides us with a filter on what we engage with, if you think that provides anywhere near an objective view, you should probably read-up on filter bubbles.)
All of this leads to the dangerous situation of ever more divisive rhetoric we are seeing play out all over the world. On the one hand, people that try to keep on top of everything, stay on the surface and form a somewhat shallow view of what is happening (or how the world works). And on the other hand, the people that go really deep, are often so caught up in filter bubbles that they engage only with what confirms their view to begin with.
Both of these approaches are bad practice for individuals, but they lead to true disaster when played out across our society and community. The first group results in a silent majority with weakly held beliefs and the second a vocal minority, with strongly held beliefs amplified through social media (instead, we should aim to have strong beliefs, loosely held!)
All of it leads to a world of dramatically divisive rhetoric, where
people have lost the willingness and ability to engage with the other
This is why it's so important to think about our information diet: the set of systems, tools and practices we employ to ensure the information we engage with
Represents good sample of the “spread” of information on a particular topic,
Is optimised to remove the noise,
Exposes the factually false and
Invites rather than discourages active discussion
Just as Calm and Headspace helped millions deal with faster, busier lives by slowing down, so our information diet helps us cut through and remove the noise in a world of information overload.
And just like “exercise routines” gained importance as our economy (and our daily activity) became less physical, so our information diet is growing in importance as our day-to-day lives are exposed to ever more content.
Information overload is only getting worse and the players that got us there (Silicon Valley), won’t get us out of it. To stay sane and effective in this new reality, it’s time we take ownership of the solution by playing an active role and being mindful of what we are consuming.
Do this, and we might just get out of a never-ending rat-race. Do this, and we reap the true benefits of the learning economy.