A Recipe for Careful Information Consumption

Attention, Blueberry University Library students. It has come to our attention that we all need to go on an information diet! Even you! Thanks to this month’s Featured Favorite, Clay Johnson’s 2012 book, The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, we now understand that in the Attention Economy what information we pay attention to matters, and our current information diet isn’t all that healthy. Think of all the junk in your inboxes and all the hours you’ve spent lost on Snapchat. Who has time for all of that AND who can resist? Admit it–your information consumption nowadays has you feeling gluttonous. Ours sure does. Good thing Johnson (2012) has the answer and a call to action:

It’s not information overload, it’s information overconsumption that’s the problem. …Information overconsumption means we need to find new ways to be selective about our intake. … We have to start taking responsibility ourselves for the information we consume. That means taking a hard look at how our information is being supplied, how it affects us, and what we can do to reduce its negative effects and enhance its positives ones.

(p. 26-27)
You burn more calories reading a real live book.

In The Information Diet, Johnson (2012) explains how we have moved from a barren information landscape to a verdant one. Because of neuroplasticity, every time we encounter information it changes our brains much like how the food we consume changes our bodies. While once information was hard to find, it is now ubiquitous. Because of this information abundance, we fall into patterns of seeking information that affirms what we already believe, which makes us resist facts to the contrary. These patterns are reinforced by information providers who feed us the information we want because it’s what’s most profitable for them. Johnson defines concepts like “content farming”, “churnalism”, “media miners”, “reality dysmorphia” and “search frenzy” to make the case that “with cheap information all around us, if we don’t consume it responsibly, it could have serious health consequences” (p. 51). Learn more by attending one of the workshops listed below.

In the meantime, look out for signs of “information obesity” (Johnson, 2012, p. 63). They include, but are not limited to:

“Apnea”, or shallow breathing or breath-holding when engaged in information consumption

“Poor sense of time”, such as when you look up from your computer and realize the sun is setting and the whole day passed you by

“Attention fatigue” caused by a constant state of distraction; also presents as loss of short-term memory and short attention span

“Loss of social breadth”, or the homogenization of your social circle

“Distorted sense of reality”

Fanatic “brand loyalty”

(Johnson, 2012, pp. 63-69)

Does any of that sound familiar? If you are seeing signs of this deadly 21st Century dis-ease in yourself, a friend or a family member, check out the following recipe and join the BUL staff at the following workshops (GFP: guaranteed free pizza):

  • Information Overconsumption Support Group
  • The Digital Literacy Imperative Workshop Series
  • Careful Consumption: How It Can Help You Ace That Class
  • Source Grading System Initiative & You

We will need your help in creating our Source Grading System, our new Careful Consumption Initiative. Together we will set up a rubric against with we will grade Blueberry University Library’s information sources. Each source will get an A, B or C, like restaurants’ letter grades. By practicing source evaluation in line with Careful Consumption principles, you will help guide future BUL students and faculty toward the healthiest information sources for their brains. Follow us @BlueberryUniversityLibrary on Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to join the conversation.

Careful Consumption posters by BUL staff available when you check out Johnson’s book or attend a workshop.