Information diet is a health way to consume mass media.
Your brain is not made to endlessly run on a hamster wheel of negativity.
I recently made my way out of China and found a new home in Oxford. Before settling down in this small British town, I thought news were essential for my everyday life.
I loved to frequent information buffets. I’ve absorbed everything from Fox News anchors over Milo Yiannopoulos and RT to Joe Rogans of the world, Al Jazeera, and CNN.
I enjoyed the consumption, until the media consumed me.
The constant cycle of throat-cutting negativity drove me to the brink of despair.
I wanted to crawl out of my own skin and run across the country, like Forrest Gump. I survived through panic attacks and developed eczema on my forearms. By the end of February, I got used to walls caving-in before sleep. I tried to remedy my condition with cold showers.
And I lost almost 20 pounds in three weeks.
I heard about the Media Fast from Tim Ferriss, and decided to give it a try.
It was late February when I escaped China. And the news.
How I Made it Out of China After a Month of Uncertainty
With the news that business won’t be back before May, I decided to pack my bags and try my luck in the UK
Most of the news is packed and distributed as any other commercial product. The editors and journalists are trying to sell their work. They figured out what works.
Crisis. Drama. Sadness. And OMG stuff is what pulls people out of their daily lives.
Normal, happy day is not a story.
This practice gets problematic when it comes to reporting global accounts. We’re constantly folded by obscene quantaties of new information.
Consuming too much news will have you feeling like the apocalypse is here.
Sensationalism is a type of editorial tactic in mass media. Events and topics in news stories are selected and worded to excite the greatest number of readers and viewers. This style of news report encourages biased impressions of events rather than neutrality and may cause a manipulation to the truth of a story.Sensationalism may rely on reports about generally insignificant matters and portray them as a major influence on society, or biased presentations of newsworthy topics, in a trivial, or tabloid manner, contrary to general assumptions of professional journalistic standards.
Some tactics include being deliberately obtuse, appealing to emotions, being controversial, intentionally omitting facts and information, being loud and self-centered, and acting to obtain attention. Trivial information and events are sometimes misrepresented and exaggerated as important or significant, and often include stories about the actions of individuals and small groups of people, the content of which is often insignificant and irrelevant to the macro-level day-to-day events occurring globally.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t stay informed about the global events. It’s important to understand the current global crisis, and to know what’s the best response.
Let me explain.
This is the example of an sensationalized headline.
This story blew up after German’s chancellor Angela Markel, attended an hour long press conference about the pandemic.
I was in Berlin just days before this story came out. And it made me feel uncomfortable.
I respect the German Chancelor, and I believe she wouldn’t throw around empty inflammatory statements. She handled more than one crisis during her time in office.
Diggin deeper, I realized she was talking about the strained medical infrastructure. Her idea was to slow the pace of disease which we all might eventually get, so the health systems could respond better.
Her full account made more sense than the sensationalized stories. It installed a sense of respect, calm, and unity in the mist of crisis. She didn’t do it for the clicks.
It’s the opposite of what the media is trying to elicit.
Headline stress disorder
Consuming too many headlines gave me a sense of impending doom.
I lost my appetite. I was constatnly on the edge. I couldn’t stop worrying about future.
Is this the end of the world? Will I lose everything? What if life never goes back to normal?
Therapist Steven Stosny, Ph.D., refers to it as “headline stress disorder” in an opinion piece for The Washington Post. He describes his personal experience with clients in whom the grueling news cycle triggered intense feelings of worry and helplessness, and he reports that this particularly affected female clients.
Stosny’s observations may be spot-on. According to a study from 2012, women are better than men at remembering negative news for longer periods. They also have more persistent physiological reactions to the stress caused by such news, the study’s authors conclude.
“Many feel personally devalued, rejected, unseen, unheard, and unsafe. They report a sense of foreboding and mistrust about the future,” Stosny writes. 
I’ve suffered all of the above. I’m still tackling nightmares and the sense of dread. But it gets easier when I don’t pour oil on fire.
The idea has been around for a while now. It has been renewed and developed by many authors and media personalities. One of the well known and highly recommended books on the subject is; The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption by Clay Johnson.
This is the first time in history that humanity is fed such an enormous amount of data. We live in information overload communities. Our brains are force-fed geese on a foie gras farms.
“The information overload community tends to rely on technical filters — the equivalent of trying to lose weight by rearranging the shelves in your refrigerator. Tools tend to amplify existing behavior. The mistaken concept of information overload distracts us from paying attention to behavioral changes.” ― Clay A. Johnson, The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption
The idea of Information Fast advocates for concious consumption of sensationalism. Take it in adequate dosage. Only when prescribed.
The same as you wouldn’t eat junk food 3 meals a day, you shouldn’t consume sensationalized news every ten minutes.
Our brains are not made to deal with constant cycles of negativity.
It’s no wonder stress and anxieties are on the rise. Such mental disturbance have already marked new generations.
Anxiety is a modern condition of the 21st century. It’s an underlying epidemic.
We’re in a constant pinch, banging our heads against the wall over events we can’t affect or change.
Seven day information fast
I challenge you to take a seven day media fast.
Chance is, you’ll feel much better.
Stay out of the news on Facebook, Instagram, and internet in general. Don’t buy the latest newspapers, and skip the news channel on your TV.
Stay in touch with your family and your closest. Let them be the information funnel. If there are life-changing events, that news will find you. Worst case scenario, you’ll get a text message from the government saying it’s all over.
It’s impossible to miss the end of the world.
I did my first information fast last week. It was the crucial vacation I postponed for years.
I feel better than I did in months. My anxieties and depression are subsiding by the day. I enjoy food again. My skin grew comfortable. I haven’t had a panic attack since I came to Europe. I stoped obsessing over issues I have no control over. And I finally managed to focus on what’s important.
I work, write, read and I’m present for my family, girlfriend and friends.
I’m in the right mindset to actually help others. And I stopped being the one that needs constant help.
Consuming too much sensationalism might damage your mental health. It will clog your engine like too much water in the tank does.
Anxiety and depression are connected to consuming too much media.
The real question is, what can you do about it?
You won’t be able to fend off the global pandemic by stressing out over the latest headline.
Unfortunately, it’s impossible to consume word about global disasters and stay indifferent. You’re not a heartless jellyfish.
It’s better to stay out of it completly for a while. If you don’t want to slip, don’t step on ice.
Do yourself a favor, and take the information detox. Approach it the same way you would approach alcohol after a massive holiday bender.