Cutting down on information


Many of us like to get our news stream delivered to us every minute of every hour of every day: RSS feeds, Twitter or Buzz messages, Facebook statuses, emails from mailing lists, etc. That’s just the way we like to stay up to date with the world around us.

The amount of information we get each day from such sources grows little by little as more “content” gets produced, more bloggers appear, more friends get an account on Twitter, etc. More information is better: “let’s subscribe to this as well, just in case”.

Personally I’m starting to feel that staying “up to date with the world” really takes more time than I’d like, and that it’s getting less and less different from some kind of drug addiction, except too much information won’t directly hurt my physical health (note the use of the word “physical”). More information and less knowledge: at the end of the day, after getting my daily fix of RSS content, most of the time I’m not any smarter. Quite the contrary.

What if I stopped taking the time to read/like/comment on all those Facebook statuses from my friends and, instead, took the time to have more real discussions over a dinner, or a drink, with all these friends that I’m following more and more, but actually seeing less than I used to?

What if you didn’t really need to know that your one-time classmate had a bad hangover this morning, that version 2.37.9 of some software you were once interested in just came out, or that some new picture of a super-cute yawning cat just got into your daily news stream’s tubes?

You know what, there’s no way you’ll ever be able to catch up with every single meaningful thing that happens every day; that’s just too much information. What if, instead of spending all this time reading “important” updates, you considered reading more books, doing more “offline” creation yourself, hanging out with real people, spending more time with you family, reading only genuinely insightful articles and blogs (in which case, stop reading this very blog at once)?

I’m starting an information cure right now. Unsubscribe from RSS feeds that deliver information that I wouldn’t really be sorry to miss. Stop checking on Facebook statuses and go read a book, play or compose some music. Un-“follow” people I don’t really care about, and instead drop them an email about having dinner over the next few weeks. 10 minutes per day reading this particular feed, that’s 60 hours per year. Is this content valuable enough to me that I’d rather not do anything else in those 60 hours?

I feel like the web allowed us to boost our ears’ range from a few meters to thousands of kilometers, and we spend hours per day listening to everything in that range, just because we can, and our instinct tells us we really shouldn’t miss any word of it, just in case. Artificially limiting that listening power may look like burying one’s head into the sand and becoming close-minded; I believe however that the re-gained time can be used to stay sane, creative and human.