It seems we’ve come to a point where people are afraid of silence. We are afraid of being stagnant, being alone, being still. These may be inherent insecurities within all of us, but I’m here to suggest otherwise.
We are in a still new era: the Information Age. This age brings a lot of promise; information and knowledge are available to everyone freely for the first time in history. If you have the dedication, you can get an education comparable to a college degree for free online. But the wonderments of this Age of Information come with downfalls, too; and these downfalls are easy to spot if you’ve got the incentive to look. Too much knowledge couldn’t possibly be a bad thing! you argue in hopefulness. But you’re wrong; you’re consuming too much information (and in the wrong manner) and it’s taking away from your life in ways you don’t even realize.
This article isn’t just directed at the nerds and the geeks and the techies who spend all day on their computers; this is for all of us. So you’re not the average American who spends 11 hours consuming information each day, from the television and the Internet to the radio and books. So you read that and think, Damn, there’s no way I consume that much media. And maybe you don’t, but even so, the important thing isn’t just quantity — it’s also quality.
It’s easy to recognize junk food when you see it — it tastes good, it makes you happy and its nutritional information is usually printed in very, very small font. The packaging is often bright and colorful. People love it, and for overeaters and those with unhealthy diets, one of the biggest problems is something called unconscious consumption.
Unconscious consumption is when you mindlessly eat whatever junk is in front of you until it runs out; even if you’re not very hungry, you’ll find yourself inhaling a huge bag of chips until just crumbs remain. And if nobody’s looking, you pour those down your throat too. The same problem occurs with information. However, the Internet bag is a bottomless one, and we’re not used to categorizing information into good/bad, healthy/unhealthy dichotomies.
One of the main problems is this: Because the Information Age is so young, we haven’t quite figured out how to use it to our ultimate advantage. We see it all as positive when there are, in fact, good and bad ways to consume information. Unfortunately, there are no nutrition facts on our media, and overindulging is easy and fun in addition to being bad for us. Consuming too much junk information can have severe psychological effects as well as physical ones, like the increased chance of obesity. ADHD, problems with short-term memory, disconnection from reality, depression, anxiety and social insecurities can all arise from overindulging in junk information.
When we think of the word ‘diet’ we think of specific diets: Atkins, Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, etc. But a diet is simply what we consume. So, just as each of us has a unique diet, healthy or unhealthy, with certain foods consumed more habitually than others, we also have an information diet. We consume different amounts of certain information habitually. In this age of media, Internet, computers, iPhones, tablets and everything else, we’ve gotten a little obsessed. And with the explosion of fantastic and amazing content ready for consumption, it’s not surprising that, at this early stage, we’re doing it wrong.
You attend class to learn your material. You attend class to prepare for your exams. You go so you don’t fall behind. Or maybe you go because you love the subject or the professor. There are reasons for your actions, though you aren’t usually conscious of them. But when a problem like addiction arises — whether it be to drugs, bin candy, alcohol, cigarettes, bin candy or bin candy — it’s important to take control. Although it may be educational and interesting to click on the random article link on Wikipedia and read up on the Province of Brandenburg, Free Molecular Interaction or the Battle of Gettysburg, you must ask yourself, What am I working toward? Admit that you may be addicted to your information, and then plan to instead be conscious of your consumption.
Remember that list of things you’ve always wanted to accomplish? Don’t succumb to junk information through your boredom. Wrestle up some determination, some motivation, and use those 11 hours to accomplish something worthwhile instead of letting the endless black hole of the information suck you in. Consume wisely — with a purpose.
Daily Nexus columnist Kevin Ferguson blew his latest paycheck on bin candy, bin candy and bin candy.