Sunday, March 25, 2007
=== Confessions of an information junkie == WTF? Today's connection to easily obtainable and digestible information inevitably has detrimental aspects; the proliferation of information addicts being one. Being afflicted this way doesn't mean you're a scholar or a person with particularly vested interest in a subject so that you can produce something of net benefit to the community – a junkie has an endless appetite for the easily absorbed – retention and contribution are not serious concerns here. For this reason, zoning out on IRC, or any other high-traffic IM venue is another great funnel to the head, apart from the web. The destructive effects are pretty obvious: I can remember days where I would wake up at around noon, read till my stomach hurt (around 2:00pm), return to the machine, eat dinner, then go to sleep when the birds woke up. This kind of pattern lurches against everything you're supposed to do as a functional, healthy, social human being. It is BAD. If you've got this, you can at least use your addiction to try and get out of your slump by learning more about it and eventually controlling the vacuum cleaner your brain has become. If you know someone with this, push it in front of their eyes and hope for the best. == Dealing The best way for folks like us to kick our habit is to understand what's going underneath the hood (to some extent). I'm not sure what exactly triggers this behavior, but I've got a feeling that it's related to workaholism, where you're going through the motions because it feels right, without much thought as to whether you're producing anything useful. This is something beyond regular procrastination. Taking heed from an article by Sierra on the scary aspects of Twitter (a crack-like Internet service that alerts you via email, mobile text messaging, and other avenues on the status of your friends and what they're up to), the key aspects of information addiction are how learning "stuff" regardless of its immediate practicality is an “example of the psychological principle of intermittent variable reward, the key addictive element of slot machines.” Be aware of how your head works in this manner; when your health starts taking a beating because you're spacing out on the net, get out of your humble abode, do something productive, or just run around and be active. Go parkouring (it's fun and dangerous!). Your body and mind tend to reset themselves to a more sane state while doing this, giving you a chance to reflect on what and why you're doing. If you're a RSS hound needing that "feeling of connectedness", uninstall your client or blow away all your feeds and try living without for a week – you'll find that it doesn't make a huge difference, because you'll hear about the important stuff anyway, either through another news channel, a friend, or through directed research you're doing for something with a concrete goal and deadline (Sierra). Go call your grandparents and ask them about the last abnormal thing you spoke to your room mate or peer about; if it's inappropriate, go for it anyway – they were your age once and probably had to deal with much crazier situations than you. Doing this will satisfy your craving and let you get on with what you should really be doing. == Wrapup Be cool. Being a total nightowl whackjob that hoards information obsessively is a controllable (and eventually highly prized) attribute. You knew the solution before you started reading this, but act on it now: get out of your house. Jumpkick a tree and run through a forest as fast as you can. Call an elder and ask hard or bizarre questions that'll have an answer you're not prepared for. Godspeed, you crazy junkies. Get better. Kathy Sierra's "Is Twitter TOO good?" : http://headrush.typepad.com/creating_passionate_users/2007/03/is_twitter_too_.html Also inspired by "If", by Rudyard Kipling.