How I made my online diet healthier in September (which is to say, not very much)

04 Oct 2012

Candy Store

Image by Bart Heird, via Flickr

Gah. So I'm already at October with this monthly project. In some ways, it's been a valuable undertaking. But you know what? I'm still feeling pretty much as info-unhealthy as I did in January. Seems like every time I've made a small victory in cleaning up my information diet, something or other flows in to fill that space. I'm still yearning for better control.

Luddite as it sounds, I miss the "newspaper over breakfast" experience. I have no love for our local newspaper, but what I miss is its finite-ness. There were only so many pages, and within them, only so many things I was interested in reading. When breakfast was over, I was done reading.

ugly breakfast
Image by Bopuc, via Flickr

Nowadays, I have "internet over breakfast," and I never, ever feel "done reading." And yet… I adore the web. I don't want to go back to old media. I just want that sense of completion, at regular intervals. I know this means severely limiting my intake. And then, of course, we're back to the square-one question of how to choose what to read in a universe of infinite possibilities!

I'm pretty excited to see Clay Johnson's new book, The Information Diet - on my Wish List for sure. I'm really liking this quote:

"There always has been more human knowledge and experience than any one human could absorb. It's not the total amount of information, but your information habit that is pushing you to whatever extreme you find uncomfortable."

Fort Myer Health and Wellness event - "Let's Move!"
Image by Defense Commissary Agency, via Flickr

This is so true! Better nutrition, in any domain, is an ongoing string of day-to-day choices. These choices feel easier when we have the bandwidth in our lives for them, and harder when we don't.

My information habits, since August, have become somewhat deplorable. I've been on a long trajectory of overwork, and the more I feel tired, the less I manage both my food diet and my information diet. I grab the takeout because I'm too tired to cook. I visit Tom + Lorenzo fifteen times a day because I'm too mentally tired to read anything more informative or deep.

(Let me pause here to say that I looooooooove Tom + Lorenzo! I just don't need to do it fifteen times a day.)

Bury St Edmunds 5-5-2012

Image by Martin Pettitt, via Flickr

So where does all this leave my monthly project? At a place many long-term projects visit: a spot of relative off-track-ness, but with much potential for improvement. Time to re-commit!

How are you feeling about your information diet these days? What practices have helped you make better information choices?


I think like any diet, it is the keeping-on-trying and slowly getting better that works in the end. :)

I'm terrible. I'm like an internet vacuum. Interestingly though - Pinterest has kind of pushed me to be more productive. I spend so much damned time pinning, that I was pushed to action to justify the time I spend with that site, i.e. I actually make/do/cook things that I pin on Pinterest as opposed to ye olde bookmarking.

At least I'm productive, if not time efficient? Oh brother...I've got a ways to go!

That's interesting! I've seen a few others who found Pinterest drove an increase in actual making. Like this blogger:

I love this post series, even when you have the impression you failed miserably (at least it's helpful for others who see they are not alone!). This will probably not be very helpful in a strictly information diet way, and I'm quite aware of the fact I have more free time than you have (to say the least), but since you're talking about internet over breakfast... this is something I completely stopped doing many months ago, and so far, I stick to it. When I have breakfast and lunch, I focus on my breakfast and lunch, or just let my mind wander. I used to have lunch while reading online, or watching TED conferences, or even worst, watching netflix, but now I go to the kitchen, sit alone at the table, and therefore send my brain a clear signal that yes, this is lunch, even if it's just a slice of bread and half an avocado. :)

You know, that's a really good habit. Restful for the brain, and eating mindfully like that has got to mean your food digests better. We always watch YouTube at meals, and most of the time, I'm barely aware of what I'm eating.

Post scriptum: to be perfectly honest, I often do a quick Instagram-Twitter-newspapers tour on my phone before I'm even out of bed. Not sure that's a better habit than internet over breakfast, actually...

Heh! I do that one, too. I've started deliberately not leaving my phone near my bed at night anymore. Whenever I do, I end up grabbing it first thing.

This year we've done two longer trips sans laptops (and only 1 smartphone) and that has suddenly made it SO much easier for me to quickly hit 'mark all as read' in my Google Reader (where most of my time suck is) to just clear away the insanity and 'pressure to read it all'. I always wonder 'what am I missing??', but if I do it really fast then I'm past the point of no return and just tell myself that anything *really* interesting will show up later on Pinterest and/or in some other blogger's recap or something.

Also, every couple of months my web browser will crash and take all my tabs with it (am I the only one who always has a gazillion open?) and while I'm mad for 5 seconds, I quickly realize I can remember the really important ones and the rest, well, I guess they weren't important enough...right? =D

This past week I've been really 'bad' b/c I've been too sick to focus on work, but alive enough to surf and comment on blogs and FB. I'm going to have to work hard to curb the bad web habits again...ugh. We're all there with you!

PS - the quickly 'marking all as read' thing has helped me pay attention to which pages/blogs I really want to read. I know all my must-checks by name...I should really go and purge my RSS subscriptions based on this info!

That's encouraging, Juliette! It really is all about re-committing. And that multiple-tabs thing? I'm right there with you!

I probably poke around the web way too much and trying to remind myself that when I'm just aimlessly surfing (even though it may lead to something wonderful) it is taking away from my precious, limited art-making time. I can't gripe about no time to enjoy creative pursuits while finding time to surf, yeah?

One thing I do think helps (for me at least) is that I do not have a "smart" phone (one of the most misnamed items ever in my humble opinion). I refuse to become one of those people I see every day I go to/from work--they meander into traffic, run into telephone poles, slam into me, etc. while staring transfixed with that stupid little screen. Nothing is that important. And there is too much amazing stuff going on in real life all around us so why miss out? (I do have a mobile phone but keep it on me for emergencies. It's a prepaid "dumb" phone!)

I love that! It's so true - when I sit on public transit now, almost every passenger is glued to a device. It becomes such a habit to pull it out and get a "fix" when there's a downtime moment. I totally do that.