life

What is an Information Diet?

October 3, 2022

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Reading Time: 6 minutes

Too Much Information: Do You Need an Information Diet?

Are you constantly scrolling on social, or refreshing your news feed? Having easy access to so much information is amazing, but it can also be damaging. What if we could find a middle ground that kept us on top of current events and in contact with our loved ones without dragging us down or sucking all our time?

Hey friends, and welcome to episode 143 of It’s About Time – a podcast sharing stories and strategies to inspire women seeking better work, life, and balance. I’m your host, time management coach Anna Dearmon Kornick. And today’s episode is all about information diets.

The thing is, we’re under a nearly constant barrage of news and information. And lately, it seems that the news is like a constant source of negativity and bad news at every turn. We also have these magical little computers that fit inside our pockets, and it makes it so easy for us to consume information. 

But can we have too much information? Do you need an information diet? 

What exactly is an information diet? 

Nowadays, information and news are like a drug. Between the dopamine hits associated with social media and the need to stay informed on every single topic known to mankind, it can often act like an addiction. Have you ever tried to put your phone down, even just for a few hours? Lots of people can’t get the device off their minds. Their fingers are just itching to pick it up and scroll through Instagram or Apple News. 

Plus, the negative spiral of reading bad news — you might have heard it called doomscrolling — can have an impact on your mental health. Taking in too much bad news can increase your anxiety and depression. Too much bad news can make your personal worries seem worse and cause stress and even symptoms of PTSD. 

The consequences of too much bad news is real, so what can we do about it? Many of us have heard that the solution to this is to go on a digital detox. 

Put the phone away and disconnect for a few days or maybe even a few weeks so that we can get our head back on straight and get centered in our own mental energy, instead of the energy of the news and other people. In the book Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport, he advocates taking a full 30-day digital detox which involves three key steps. 

Step 1 is to set the rules for your detox. 

Newport recommends that you start by defining your technology rules, as in, what are your rules around this digital detox. Are you going to avoid social media? Are you going to avoid specific news sites or YouTube? Is email on your phone allowed or will you only check on desktop? What about email subscriptions? How will you handle those? 

Step 2 is to take a 30-day break.

That’s pretty self-explanatory. 

Step 3 is to reintroduce technology,…

with a few guidelines, little by little to see how it affects you. 

If you’ve ever done or even heard of Whole 30, this digital detox is a pretty similar concept. With a Whole 30, you cut out specific foods for 30 days and then gradually reintroduce them to see how you feel. And I realize I’m oversimplifying the concept of Whole 30, but you get the idea. 

But here’s what I really think about a digital detox. At face value, it seems great, but it’s just not sustainable. I’m sure you can learn a lot in the process, but let’s be real — a full-on 30-day digital detox isn’t going to be possible for a lot of us. 

If you work in… well… any job nowadays, you can’t stay away from the digital world permanently. I figured that there had to be some sort of middle ground. One where I could take digital breaks and step back from all of the negativity while still remaining in touch for the positive things, like pictures of my friends’ babies or Good News from around the globe! 

That’s how I found the information diet. (Looking for a middle ground? Try a Digital Declutter, like I talked about back in Episode 64.) 

When you go on an information diet, you make a decision to consciously consume media and news. 

It doesn’t mean you stop consuming it all together, or that you consume all sorts of news as most of us do now, allowing it to affect our mental, physical, and emotional states. Instead, you make a choice to consume information that is either necessary or positive, with a couple of bad pieces of news thrown in here and there. 

Just like a regular diet! 

Going on an information diet has helped me stay on top of current events without feeling super heavy and panicked about the catastrophe du jour. These are some of top tips for keeping a healthy information diet. 

First things first, pick your channels. 

Part of the overwhelm comes from being overloaded with information at all times. News channels, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, alerts, texts… you name it, you’re getting information from it. Gone are the days when we pick up our morning paper, read it through, and go about the rest of our day oblivious to the world. 

So instead, we have to make our own newspaper by picking the channels we’re going to get news from. Stick to just one or two social media platforms if you can. If, like me, you need to be on a few for your business, try to post without getting sucked into the wormhole. Tools like Planoly and Tailwind are great for scheduling out posts so that you don’t have to go on the physical platform. 

Beyond that, I like to have filters set on the social channels I’ve decided to frequent. Most social media apps will allow you to choose words or hashtags that you don’t want to appear on your feed, which can then block out stories, articles, or videos that can instantly put you in a bad mood. 

Then, give yourself a time limit. 

Part of the lure (and addiction) of social media and news is that they can just go on forever. No matter how long you scroll, new posts always seem to pop up. On the off chance that there aren’t any new posts, there’s a ton of other platforms to choose from! 

Essentially, your scrolling can go on forever. That’s why I love to set time limits. If you have an iPhone, you can actually go into your settings and choose how long you’re able to use each social media app (or a combination of them). 

Choose a palette cleanser! 

Just like they do over in Europe, we can all use a good palette cleanser after each course of news hits our feeds for the day. Find something happy and uplifting that you can turn to after negative and scary news. 

There are so many great comedians who have built up their social media presences, and there are plenty of YouTube channels dedicated to all things positive! Whatever gets you out of the negative head space and into a positive mood is what you should choose as your palette cleanser. Whether that’s funny skits, a great music video, or adorable videos of baby goats leaping over rocks, turn it on after reading something scary, sad, or terrible. 

Social media and the ability to have information at our fingertips, whenever we want it, can often be a great gift of the modern world. But especially now, it’s important to remember that just because it’s there… doesn’t mean we have to use it. 

It’s great to keep yourself informed and connected, but it’s equally as great to take care of yourself and your mental health by keeping your information diet light and nutritious most of the time!

In this solo episode, I talk about:

  • What an information diet is
  • Why you might need one
  • How you can build a more healthy relationship with info and media 
  • My top tips for creating your information diet

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

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