Monday, August 20, 2012

Are We Feeding Our Brain Junk Food?

How we feed our brain is as important as how we feed our body, says Dr. Weil. Feeding it an overabundance of low-quality information can have "serious implications for mental health and emotional wellness." From his latest book:
Many scholarly articles are in print about information overload and its physical, psychological, and social consequences. Francis Heylighen ... in a 2002 article titled "Complexity and Information Overload in Society: Why Increasing Efficiency Leads to Decreasing Control," writes:
"We get much more information than we desire, as we are inundated by an ever growing amount of email messages, internal reports, faxes, phone calls, newspapers, magazine articles, webpages, TV broadcasts, and radio programs. ... The retrieval, production and distribution of information [are] infinitely easier than in earlier periods, practically eliminating the cost of production. This has reduced the natural selection processes, which would otherwise have kept all but the most important information from being transmitted. ... The result is an explosion in irrelevant, unclear, and simply erroneous data fragments. This overabundance of low quality information has been called data smog. ... The same applies to the ever growing amount of information that reaches us via the mass media. The problem is that people have clear limits in the amount of information they can process."
David Shenk, who apparently coined the term "data smog" in his 1997 book, says:
"Just as fat has replaced starvation as this nation’s number one dietary concern, information overload has replaced information scarcity as an important new emotional, social, and political problem."
Information overload is a physical problem too, affecting sleep, concentration, digestion, and the immune system.

How to cope with data smog:
  • Turn off the television for at least an hour or two every evening.
  • Spend some time each week without your pager or cell phone.
  • Resist advertising - never buy a product based on unsolicited email (spam).
  • Go on periodic "data fasts."
  • Write clearly and succinctly. Verbose writing is wasteful and difficult to read.
  • Skim newsletters and magazines and rip out a copy of an article or two that you really want to read and digest.
  • Filter your email. Many email programs allow you to set "filters" which send unwanted email directly to the trash.
  • Do not forward chain letters, urban legends, urgent messages about email viruses.
  • Organize your Web bookmarks or favorites.

"In 1971 the average American was targeted by at least 560 daily advertising messages. Twenty years later, that number has risen six fold, to 3,000 messages per day."
It's a junk-food environment out there.


Bix said...

Some of those coping strategies seem a little outdated. I've cut back on print media so much that "ripping out a copy of an article" is a distant memory.

Ezer said...

I agree, one big problem now is "too much interactions" through social networks. I'm needing to sanitize this as well.

Dr. Mel said...

Weil's good. Btw, I love your new header--funky font!

Bix said...

The header, you noticed. I gave it a fresher look. I was toying with photos but decided to keep it simple.

I just finished Weil's book, finally. I'm a slow reader. Maybe I'd read faster if I wasn't reading so many things at once. I'm inundated with data smog!

Bix said...

Ezer, it's like that. I have a Twitter account that I don't use very much. I got on it the other day and ... whoosh! ... there went 20 minutes! I don't even remember what I was reading there.