The Information Diet

Thoughts on mindful consumption online written by Jet Williams on Jan 15th, 2024

Over the past decade our attention spans have been shattered and we can no longer focus on anything for more than five minutes, before getting bored and moving on to the next thing. The introduction of short form content over the past decade has only compounded the effects mass consumption of media has had on our attention spans

A decade from now I believe we will look back on this era of Internet consumption the same way we look back on our grand parents who thought smoking was harmless. In hindsight it's going to be obvious — anything in excess is going to have harmful effects in some way on us.

Which is why I believe we should become more mindful of our consumption online. One way to do this is to introduce an information diet into our online routines. Much like a traditional diet we need to limit the amount of junk we consume and make a conscious effort to eat foods rich in nutrition.

We can start this process by simply pruning what we don't need online. This can be done by first unfollowing all of the accounts you really don't care about. This should reduce your feed to those that truely matter in your lives.

However, there's an issue with this because todays algorithms focus less on your network of friends and accounts you follow and more on content the algorithm thinks you might like. So even if you followed five people you will still have an endless amount of content you can scroll through.

One solution to this is building your own highly curated feed of content using an old technology called RSS, which stands for really simple syndication. There are hundreds of videos and tutorials online explaining how to setup your own RSS feed using one of the many RSS readers you can download on your device.

In short, the way RSS works is you copy the RSS feed link from any source of content you find interesting and plug it into your RSS reader which will continually check if any of your feeds have added new content.

Keep in mind, I'm not advocating to cut the algorithm completely out of our lives. It's a fantastic tool that can be used as a place of discovery. However, if we are not careful we can quickly become a slave to them. Your attention is a muscle that should be trained and it's something I personally want to improve in my life.

I've found that reading long form articles and books from credible sources who aren't trying to play into the algorithm can often be a fantastic way to improve your focus. I'd recommend a set of people for you to read but what we deem useful is often relative to the individual. You could also physically limit access to your devices by placing them in different rooms, if you really want to complete a certain task and need a distraction free environment.

In summary, It's not necessarily about what you consume but it's about becoming more mindful of our consumption patterns. The answer is often the one you don't want to hear and it's the fact that to improve focus we need to do hard things. So the next time you think about picking up a your phone to scroll on TikTok how about you try read a chapter or two of that book you've been meaning to read.

This essay was inspired by Mark Mansons video titled: The Attention Diet: Be More Focused