Eating junk food can make you unhealthily fat. And ingesting too much junk information can make you unhealthily uninformed. Way too many of us fit in both categories.
“Who wants to hear the truth when they can be affirmed and told they are right,” Clay Land – a cousin of mine, by the way – said on Weekend Edition Sunday morning. Being interviewed about his book The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, Clay said that we can be better informed if we seek factual information instead of opinions that confirm our beliefs. His book tells us how we can do that.
He is addressing a big problem. We are feasting on texts, instant messages, emails, RSS feeds, downloads, videos, status updates, and tweets. Some experts think our attention spans have become unhealthily short. We can change that by changing our information consumption habits.
One can’t blame the providers for the problem because they are giving us what they think we want, content that confirms our beliefs. But, just as Wal-Mart started carrying fruits and vegetables and lower salt and fat content in order to stop losing high-end customers, information providers could start providing more fact and fewer opinions. But we have to reward good information providers by becoming good customers.
I think he has picked a subject is quite timely, one that needs our attention. And I plan to read the book. And it’s not just because he is the son of my cousin Ray Johnson, who is an Albany, Georgia psychiatrists. Ray gave me the heads-up on Clay’s scheduled interview on PBS. I’m glad he did.