Do you need to go on an information diet?

Do you use your smart phone as an alarm clock and then immediately start checking e-mails?

If so, you might want to think about embarking on an information diet. Clay Johnson, the man behind Barack Obama’s social media strategy, shared highlights from his book, The Information Diet, at this year’s MESH conference.
According to Johnson, when we search on the Internet, we are often looking for validation of our existing opinions rather than information that will help us become informed. We already have our biases and so if we want the details of a specific news story, we tend to search the websites of the media outlets which most conform to our own point of view, whether that’s TMZ, Fox News or the Toronto Star. If we are annoyed with our spouse, worried about our kids or concerned about our appearance, we search for others who are experiencing the same things and who react the same way, rather than seeking out different opinions.

Johnson believes many North Americans are over-consuming useless information because it’s readily available. To prove his point, he asked the audience to name Kim Kardashian’s ex-husband. Many people yelled out the answer. He then asked if anyone knew the child poverty rate in Toronto and the room went silent.
In his book, The Information Diet, Johnson recommends we take the following steps to trim our information waistline:

1. Become a conscious consumer of information – Every time you visit a website, ask yourself if it’s vital to what you are trying to achieve in life. Rather than mindlessly consuming information all day, schedule time for different types of Internet use.

2. Seek whole news – Johnson says the life cycle of an event starts as actual truth, becomes reworded truth, turns into processed truth, is reported in the media and ends up on TV, where it’s furthest from the truth. While it’s not always possible to find out the truth, get information from multiple news sources and points of view.

3. Be a producer more than a consumer – If you check emails and news sites before breakfast, you’re starting your day as a consumer of other people’s thoughts and opinions. Try to start your day as a producer of your own content, through your blog, Twitter stream or website. Johnson recommends writing 500 words before 8 a.m.

4. Subtract junk from your daily intake – Remember that your clicks have consequences and, because the Internet stores information about you, your reading patterns affect everyone in your demographic. Remember that the next time you stop by Perez Hilton.

5. Content is not a commodity – Until we are comfortable with the concept of paying for filtered, fact-checked, responsible content, we will continue to be spoon-fed a steady diet of misinformation.

Several thousand people have already taken the pledge to go on an information diet. To learn more, visit

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