The term ‘diet’ refers to the sum of food and drink that a person consumes.
An ‘information diet’ is the sum total of the information that a person consumes. It includes everything we get from TV, movies, internet, email and social media. This is on top of the information you are ‘fed’ in your degree.
In the same way that we should be attentive to the food we consume (preferencing healthy options), I think we should also be mindful of the information that we consume.
Whether we want to admit it or not, we are influenced by the information we are exposed to. Few of us have the mental horsepower to critically evaluate all the information we receive. Thus we are vulnerable to being manipulated. Most of us are already aware that the large media and social media organisations are using complex algorithms to tailor the information presented to us, often for commercial purposes. We also know there is a negativity bias in coverage of current affairs. The effect this is having on your beliefs, opinions, and decisions can be hard to determine.
In recent years, I’ve tried to purposefully manipulate the information I receive around health and wellbeing, with the goal of only receiving information that I can action in my life for the purposes of making improvements (a positivity or action bias). It has been a process of trial and error, and whilst I certainly have not developed the perfect wellbeing information diet, I am much closer than I have been in the past.
The main facets of my approach have included the following:
- Significantly reducing overall time spent on social media and traditional news outlets – negativity, tribalism, anger, selfishness and frustration seem to dominate social and traditional media. The more time I spend on them, the more negative about humanity I feel and the worse a person I become (tribalist, closed minded). I have thus dramatically reduced my overall social media and news consumption.
- Subscribing to health/ wellbeing newsletters via email – email might seem old school, but I have to spend a lot of time in email anyway, because of the nature of my work. Thus I have subscribed (and unsubscribed) to many email newsletters relating to health and wellbeingover time and have slowly pulled together a set that deliver me interesting and relevant content. I’ve mentioned a couple below.
- Deliberately selecting news sources that promote positive messages, regardless of whether they are about health/wellbeing specifically – I recently started following a number of sites that produce news on the many ways that humans are making progress towards important issues like climate change reversal, inequality and poverty reduction (things that cause me anxiety). A good example is https://humanprogress.org/ These sites ensure that my mind is focused around solutions for these critical issues.
- Saving articles of interest to an app like Pocket – https://getpocket.com/ is a browser add-on and mobile app that allows you to save articles for later reading. Whilst I sometimes return to read articles for a second time, the major benefit of using a service like Pocket is that they send me customised email newsletters with links to articles that are in the same vein as the articles I am reading.
- I am reading more books – getting a lot of news and information from social media and websites gets us used to our information being presented in smaller chunks. Issues are often over-simplified in the process. But important issues like health and wellbeing and the future of humanity typically require longer-form consideration. Returning to book reading is helping me readjust to the reality of needing to dig in further to truly have a good appreciation of important topics.
Whilst my wellbeing information preferences will be different to yours, I have started a list of the key resources in my information diet. You might find some of them useful also.
What newsletters, websites or blogs have become part of your everyday life?
Is there room for you to improve your information diet?