Internet Social Media

Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature]

Justin Pot 28-09-2012

Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] infodiet icon“How many people here know what the resolution is on the new Macbook Pro So What's The Deal With The New MacBook Pro? Read More ?”


Clay Johnson asked that question earlier this year while speaking to a class in Washington, DC. Eighty percent of the class knew the answer (it’s 2880×1800).

Johnson asked another question. “What is the child poverty rate here in DC?”

Not one student knew the answer (29.1 percent).

“What’s more relevant if you have $2000 to spend?” he asks me. “Your laptop works fine. I don’t want to lay a guilt trip on you, but somebody should know, out of a class of fifty people – one person should know that the child poverty rate is 29 percent.”

I’m talking with Johnson over Skype; he’s in DC, I’m in Boulder, Colorado. I have to admit: I don’t know the child poverty rate in Boulder (17.5 percent).


The point, Johnson explains, is knowing the poverty rate in your city can help you be a better citizen and possibly help you build a better community. Knowing the resolution of a just-released laptop cannot.

But the average person is more likely to read about the new MacBook’s resolution than the poverty rate where they live.

“Is it that newsworthy that a laptop was released?” he asks me. “Because that’s apparently that’s what’s newsworthy today”.

‘Going Straight To Dessert, Every Time’

Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] infodiet johnson


Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] infodiet coverJohnson is the author of The Information Diet, a book with a unique core metaphor: heavily processed information, like heavily processed food, isn’t healthy but for some reason we can’t get enough of it.

Email. Social networks. Blogs. Online video. People today consume more information than ever before, and typically only consume the things they really, really like. Johnson compares this to a bad diet.

“If you only ate what you want then we’d probably put the dessert section at the top of the menu, rather than at the bottom,” he says. “I think the same thing is happening with journalism: we’re going straight to dessert every time.”

Technology journalism today is written by people who don’t understand technology, and it basically amounts to advertisements for Apple, Google, Amazon or Microsoft.

Tech-savvy people are no exception.


“Technologists aren’t picking up a newspaper: they’re going to Hacker News or Reddit or Tech Meme and reading stuff that really doesn’t matter to them,” he says. “Technology journalism today is written by people who don’t understand technology, and it basically amounts to advertisements for Apple, Google, Amazon or Microsoft.”

As a technology journalist I can’t help but reflect on that. I linked to a MacBook Pro article above, but could hardly find a MakeUseOf article about child poverty.

72 Trillion Dollars

They need to create cheap, popular information.

Later I bring up a particular incident: various websites reporting the RIAA demanded $73 trillion dollars from Limewire.

“Isn’t that more money than exists on earth?” he laughs.


Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] infodiet 72 trillion

“Yeah,” I say, “But news organizations reported it as fact. Why do you think that is?”

“It probably got people to click,” Johnson says. “That’s how our media has defined itself now. Our food companies industrialized and created incentives, so there is now a responsibility to create cheap, popular calories. Now we’ve industrialized media, and they need to create cheap, popular information.”

Fact checking isn’t cheap, and statistics aren’t popular. So we get stories about celebrities, sideboob and new laptops. We only eat dessert.

Social networking isn’t helping: people tend to share dessert with their friends online more than vegetables.

Don’t Mindlessly Consume: Schedule

It’s not just journalism Johnson’s concerned with, though: it’s the amount of time we spend consuming irrelevant information overall.

“Time is our only non-renewable resource,” he tells me. “You can always get more money, you can always get more food…but you can never get back lost time.”

Email and social networking can be valuable; constantly checking for updates instead of accomplishing things isn’t. That’s time we can get back if we’re conscious about it, says Johnson.

“Make it work around your lifestyle rather than getting lost in it all day,” he says. “I think it’s just a vital part of a healthy lifestyle to say ‘I’m going to schedule what time I’m going to spend on email, schedule what time I’m going to spend on Twitter, schedule what time I’m going to spend on Facebook or Google Plus.'”

Sound impossible? Information doesn’t need to be overwhelming, he explains: it becomes overwhelming because we constantly pay attention to it.

I check email from 8 to 9 and 2 to 3. That’s when I do my email. And guess what? My email gets done.

“This idea that we’re getting deluged is in part because we get addicted to waiting for email, get addicted to seeing what’s happening on social networks,” he tells me. “I check email from 8 to 9 and 2 to 3. That’s when I do my email. And guess what? My email gets done. Since I started the information diet there’s never been more than 50 messages in my inbox.”

Johnson regularly appears in the media, runs a fairly popular blog and gives regular talks across the USA – you probably don’t get more email than him.

And if you’re afraid you’ll miss something if you don’t constantly check your email and social networks, Johnson disagrees.

“You are not going to sit on your deathbed and be like ‘Man, if only I was notified of that Living Social coupon in 2012, and got that laser hair removal: then I could have lived a happy and fulfilled life.'” he says. “That’s just not going to happen.”

A Surprisingly Apt Metaphor

There’s one core idea in Johnson’s book: we should think about information the way we think about food.

“How did you come up with this metaphor?” I ask.

“The first thing that sparked my attention was a document from the CDC,” he responds. “It shows obesity over time, state by state.”

Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] infodiet obesity

“I started looking at that and I started thinking about the polarization of politics,” he says. “I fantasized about what this obesity map would look like as an electoral map. That’s when I started noodling around with the idea.”

It’s impossible to discuss Johnson’s ideas without wading into politics in general and healthcare in the USA specifically, but the overall themes apply everywhere.

“My mom got cancer, and our health insurance went up by a factor of ten,” he tells me. “My dad had to go work for the state of Georgia in order to keep her insured. My dad was 70 at the time, and had retired. We didn’t have a sports car or a house that was too big. We were a middle class family.”

Johnson didn’t understand what anyone was supposed to do under those circumstances.

Getting Into Politics

“It drove me into politics,” he said. “I got into healthcare, trying to solve that problem, so I went to work for Howard Dean in 2004. I thought if I helped elect a president that would solve it.”

Dean, you’ll recall, lost the primary to John Kerry, who lost the general election to incumbent George W. Bush.

Johnson continues: “Then I thought it wasn’t just a president I needed to elect: it was a whole bunch of Democrats. So I started this company called Blue State Digital, and it turns out we did help elect a bunch of Democrats, including eventually a President.”

But it still wasn’t enough, according to Johnson. Healthcare remained broken – apparently electing Democrats wasn’t the solution.

Transparency Isn’t The Solution Either

“So then I thought the problem was maybe the lobbyists,” he says. “So I went to work with the Sunlight Foundation and tried to solve things that way. I thought if we put a bunch of data out there people would make a rational decision, see what’s going on with their health insurance and demand change.”

It’s a common idea among technology enthusiasts: giving people access to raw information will keep them informed. Johnson believed it until a single sign changed his mind.

“Keep your government hands off my Medicare” it said. The problem, of course, being that Medicare itself is a government program.

I realized we have a community of people that are highly informed but not well informed

“That hit home for me,” says Johnson. “I realized we have a community of people that are highly informed but not well informed. I’m not defining people as being well informed for agreeing with me – I don’t think that that’s the case. I think it’s more about knowing the fundamental structures of how things work and, obviously, knowing that Medicare is a government-run program is a requirement for engaging in the health care debate in this country.”

It changed the way Johnson thought about information.

“I felt like this transparency thing, while important, wasn’t enough,” he says. “You have to convince people to look for this stuff and seek it out, because it’s not being given to them by the mainstream media or by any media.”

Confirming Our Own Worldviews

There’s a difference between what it is that you want and what it is that you need.

It’s frustrating for technologists to admit, but the Internet isn’t solving the problem. Johnson explains most  people are usually reading things they already agree with.

“When you read an article online you scroll down to the bottom and you see a thing that says ‘other articles like this one'”, Johnson says. “So you get stuck in a place where you’re just always reading more and more of the stuff that you want to hear.”

Alternative media doesn’t necessarily help.

“If people seek out alternative media they’re generally seeking out alternative media that agrees with them,” he says. “If you play that out a little bit we end up with this real big problem, which is America existing in two different realities reading from two different news sources: a red one and a blue one.

“Our ability to deliberate and synthesize the best of ideas goes away.”

It’s a political problem, sure, but it goes beyond that.

“You see this with Apple fans, and Google fans,” says Johnson. “The Apple pundits out there seem to use the same sort of weird tactics that the political people here in Washington DC do. It’s very strange.”

The cause, as always, is clicks. People click what they want.

Johnson continues: “There’s a difference between what it is that you want and what it is that you need.”

SOPA: Long-term Internet Activism

Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] info diet wikipedia

Nobody is going to put The Internet at the top of their voting issues.

Johnson sees his early political work with the Dean campaign as a consequence of consuming bad information.

“We became delusional on the Dean campaign because we kept saying ‘we’re gonna win,’ and ‘we’re the best,'” he recalls. “And it turns out we weren’t the best, at least in the voter’s eyes.”

The anti-SOPA protests earlier this year in the USA put off Internet-regulating legislation by causing phones on Capitol Hill to ring off the hook, but that won’t work forever according to Johnson. Blackouts on sites like Reddit and Wikipedia won’t work forever without persuasive information.

“Eventually Congress is going to say ‘we’re not going to listen to The Internet anymore'”, he says. “And they’re going to get re-elected anyway, because nobody is going to put The Internet at the top of their voting issues. People care about healthcare, or war, or guns. No one is going to make compromise on any of those things for intellectual property on the Internet legislation.

“So you need to find out how to distil this stuff from popular movements into dispassionate and calculating action.”

It’s hard work, but it’s necessary.

Consequences to Consumption

Clicks are votes. If you’re checking out the side boob section of the Huffington Post there’s going to be more sideboob stories.

“I feel like the Huffington Post, Drudge Report and The Daily Caller are sites that are catering towards the base of society,” Johnson tells me. It’s easy, after hearing that, to simply blame the sites for putting up simplified content, but that’s not entirely fair: the sites deliver content they think will be popular.

“Our media consumption choices have consequences,” says Johnson. “Clicks are votes. If you’re checking out the side boob section of the Huffington Post there’s going to be more sideboob stories.”

Reading garbage content doesn’t just affect you: it affects everyone else who looks at a particular site.

“Your friends don’t know [what you’re reading], but somebody does. The editors are saying ‘oh, this 30 year old white male likes Kardashians, we should give them more Kardashians and less investigative reporting.'”

The result: every time you ignore an investigative piece to read some celebrity gossip, or ignore a policy article to read instead about the political horse race, you’re telling websites what sells. It’s a potentially never-ending cycle, one at least one news organization has formalized.

“AOL put it out in writing in The AOL way, which was leaked,” Johnson tells me. “An average piece of AOL content has to cost on average $80, and they need to get 50% gross margin on that.

“There’s no way to do that other than to sensationalize the headline and do very little original research.”

On Advertising

“Is part of the problem people aren’t willing to pay for quality content?” I ask.

“We do pay for content,” he quickly responds. “I think we just have to wake up and understand that we’re paying for it. Advertising is not a cost free payment mechanism – it’s just an opaque one. When a pizza company advertises and talks you out of cooking dinner tonight and ordering pizza instead, you’ve effectively paid for your content. You got a television show for $20 and it came with a free pizza.”

I ask if the information would be better were we willing to pay for it up front.

“You see that now,” he responds. “A lot of the best content sources are reader supported or viewer supported. NPR, which does a fantastic job at reporting, is almost entirely listener supported.” HBO and iTunes are other good examples, he says.

Avoiding ads can help you cut back on information overload but it can also save you money.

“I encourage a lot of people who are on information diets to sit down and do the math. Say [a cable subscription] is $100 a month, which is $1200 a year, would you spend less than $1200 a year in the iTunes store?

“Then you just have to figure out whether it’s that important for you to watch those shows as soon as they come out or whether you can wait a season.”

Tweaks You Can Make

There is never anything you’re going to miss out on on Facebook. It’s just never going to happen.

Johnson thinks people should schedule their media consumption instead of mindlessly consuming throughout the day. MakeUseOf being a technology site, I asked Johnson what tweaks people can make to their technology to avoid bad information habits.

Enemy number one, he told me, were notifications.

“Eliminate anything that’s push or notifications,” he said. “I think notifications are evil.”

Why single out notifications? Because they pull our attention from what we’re trying to do and pull us instead into our email and social networks – discouraging us from interacting with them only during scheduled times.

“There is never anything you’re going to miss out on on Facebook,” he says. “It’s just never going to happen. Nothing requires your immediate attention on Facebook.”

The advice continued.

“Stop using your iPhone as an alarm clock,” he said. “When you do that, you’ve awakened and you now have your iPhone in your hand…what are you going to do? You’re going to check your email after you’ve turned off your alarm, and that stuff can wait.”

In his book Johnson suggests instead doing something productive first thing in the morning.

Oh, and while you’re at it, turn off notifications on your phone.

“If you have push email on there activated, turn it off,” he says. “Turn off notifications for every single app that you’ve got. There is never, ever, a reason you need to know now.”

Johnson also recommends finding a tool to track what you’re doing with your time on the computer; he provides a list of resources at, including these programs:

Johnson’s site also includes links to places you can turn off email notifications for all of your social networks.

The site makes it clear that installing tools isn’t enough: “Just like cleaning the junk-food out of your kitchen won’t make you lose weight if you simply choose to eat out all the time, an information diet is less about installing tools and more about making conscious decisions about the information you consume.”

More information

Sticking to an information diet, ultimately, is about discipline.  I ask what people can do to find the stength to follow-through.

“You can read my book,” he responds, laughing, before pointing out there is a lot of helpful literature out there: Howard Rheingold’s NetSmart and David Weinberger’s Too Big to Know, for example.

“What gets me excited about all this stuff is it’s really clear, now, that there’s consensus that there is some kind of problem,” he says. “We’re getting to a point where we’re waking up to knowing that there’s a problem. That’s exciting to me.”

Will we, as a society, act on that knowledge? It’s up to us.

Image Credits:

Cake picture by Helen Bird via Shutterstock

Photo of Clay Johnson by Joi Ito

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  1. Claire Cameron
    January 7, 2013 at 6:36 pm
  2. Zara Walker
    November 25, 2012 at 5:17 pm

    Very informative!

  3. Austen Gause
    November 21, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    its true it really does explain alot of what people do with their time.

  4. Anonymous
    November 13, 2012 at 12:22 am

    Interesting, I recommend all of you to have an appropriate "Information Diet", I going to begin my own.

  5. Robert Nelson
    November 10, 2012 at 7:20 pm

    In other words learn to Focus and avoiding going down the "Rabbit Hole".

  6. John Pavelko
    November 10, 2012 at 12:10 am

    Excellent article. I just finished Hamlet's Blackberry which had a few similar themes. This article should be required reading in every high school and college

  7. Anthony Monori
    November 7, 2012 at 2:41 pm

    The cake image on the frontpage from this article is making me hungry every time I come to this website ! :) Great article btw.

  8. Naoman Saeed
    October 29, 2012 at 10:15 am

    good read

  9. Paul Hays
    October 26, 2012 at 4:34 pm

    Very nice. This may keep some of us "honest" about our infomaniac tendencies

  10. Brack St. Clair
    October 25, 2012 at 4:30 pm

    Very interesting article. Definitely some, ahem, food for thought...

  11. Santosh Kolhar
    October 25, 2012 at 5:06 am


    Have desserts when stressed..!!!

  12. Cindy
    October 23, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Excellent points. I'm changing my notification settings as we speak. However, I live in "Tornado Alley", so I think I'll keep my severe weather notifications.

  13. Leon Stafford
    October 16, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    Hey Justin,

    Finally found the previous time to read more than the first paragraph of this ;)

    Excellent article. As pre recent Technophilia podcasts, I'm also looking for more non-mainstream sources of information to educate myself more about society, politics and finance. Would be very happy if there were some introduced by you in each podcast.



    • Justin Pot
      October 16, 2012 at 11:42 pm

      Not a bad idea, though I'm fairly mainstream myself. New York Times, NPR, Economist. Not sure what I'd have to contribute but I do try to mention things from time to time.

  14. Maulya Agustini
    October 14, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    I am so skinny... Need to eat more desserts! XD

  15. Mishaal Fatima
    October 13, 2012 at 7:05 am

    nice article...very informative

  16. Anonymous
    October 12, 2012 at 2:03 am

    A very insightful read :)

  17. Alex Downs
    October 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm

    I just really want that cake now lol

  18. Edward Bellair
    October 9, 2012 at 12:29 am

    Easier said than done. Good info to keep in mind tho. Thank you.

  19. swayam
    October 8, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    very attractive great tool. and application

  20. Saul Small
    October 7, 2012 at 12:10 pm

    I decided to buy this, after reading this article

  21. Jason Williams
    October 7, 2012 at 2:43 am

    great article will definitely be pick up this book and rethinking my intakes.

  22. Anthony Monori
    October 6, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I'm really happy that i came across this article.

  23. Kavita Shah
    October 5, 2012 at 10:44 pm

    never thought that way...

  24. Edwin Williams
    October 5, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Look before you eat! lolol

  25. Conga1
    October 5, 2012 at 7:37 am

    Interesting topic.
    Am awaiting copies of The Information Diet and also NetSmart: How to Thrive Online, by Howard Rheingold, MIT Press, 2012.
    Am currently reading The Filter Bubble: How the New Personalized Web is Changing What We Read and How We Think, by Eli Pariser, Penguin Books, 2011.

  26. Vasu Gupta
    October 4, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    very attractive great tool. a should have app.

  27. George
    October 4, 2012 at 1:58 am

    I loved the point of view. It was the first that you made me think this way.

  28. fainom enous
    October 4, 2012 at 1:52 am

    No words, great article enligthing one

  29. Tom Gatward
    October 3, 2012 at 10:16 pm

    This is a great article! Thank you.

    Now... Is it ok if I tweet, like and +1 this? Let's turn social media on itself!

  30. dragonmouth
    October 3, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Before I start to worry about the child poverty rate in D.C., or Colorado or anywhere else in the world, my immediate concern is the poverty rate in my own family.

    Electing any particular flavor of politicians in the hope that they will fix healthcare is a fool's errand. The healthcare system in the United States is FUBAR'ed. To truly fix it, it must be rebuilt from the ground up to eliminate all the fingers that special interests have in the pie.

  31. Carolyn Barnett
    October 3, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    He has a lot of good points.My husband worked for 40 years and there was no retirement funds,Social security is our only income,He has medicare too.It is difficult at times to survive.

  32. Vishal Mishra
    October 3, 2012 at 12:27 pm

    I really needed this, thank you very much.I am hopeful that it will help me to stop wasting time on internet.

  33. Andrew
    October 2, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Your article begins with an absolute lie: If 80% of your class knew the resolution of the new Macbook Pro, I will eat my own goddamn foot. You make some good points in the rest of it, but it's hard to move past what is obviously a complete lie.

    • Benjamin Glass
      October 7, 2012 at 9:55 pm

      I wish people wouldn't swear on this site.

  34. Ashoka Compcomm
    October 2, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Great work & thanks for such work. I would like to know some information of online earning without investment ................

  35. Jim
    October 2, 2012 at 12:21 pm

    Nothing surprising here.

    Anyone who has read the Bible already sees all this. It is clearly written that men are easily drawn away from the truth by their own desires and lusts. People would rather read things that tickle their ears than face up to reality. Prophecy fulfilled. It'll only get worse until the Lord returns.

    Don't get your ears tickled. Make yourself read historical facts and act on it. God's word is true.

    • Benjamin Glass
      October 7, 2012 at 9:54 pm


  36. Jim Spencer
    October 2, 2012 at 4:28 am

    The bottom line is that people need to think for themselves and ask questions, even if the person they are getting information from seems like a "rock star." Liberal, Conservative, they are labels, what is the most precious thing to you? I find that if I list what my wants and needs are, then I can begin to filter from there, so it is amazing what we find that we really need as opposed to what we want!

  37. Tyler J. Baumann
    October 2, 2012 at 3:54 am
  38. Bored Ashell
    October 2, 2012 at 3:45 am

    I'm sorry but but knowing the poverty rate doesn't make anyone a better person. If you give people money all you are teaching them is that people will give you money instead of having to work for it. I'm not saying you shouldn't help people out, like maybe by employing those people, teaching people a skill, or maybe just give some good advice...
    As far as news goes half of it is propaganda and marketing. Poor people are not news. If you want to filter out time wasting news just disconnect your internet and throw away your phone, its all a waste of time.

  39. Christopher Dsouza
    October 2, 2012 at 2:36 am

    That is perfectly true. One more thing i ponder on is how people talk about the global economy, but the reality is there is a vast difference in living conditions, pay scale etc between 2 people doing the same job in, say Europe and Asia. It all seems like Hogwash when the Fluctuation of the Dollar/ Euro etc. affects the local currencies but does nothing about living conditions and poverty.

  40. Marcel Delorme
    October 2, 2012 at 1:48 am

    Excellent piece. Too many times I catch myself checking my email, or reading an article that is more advertisement than useful information. When I catch myself I stop, sometimes it's fairly far into it before I realize.
    I wonder why this type of addiction is so hard to break. I've observed kids using their phones to text or check emails at really bad times, such as during class, rather than wait until they can give it their total focus. As for the content of many so-called tech articles it's simple, follow the money!

    • dkod19
      October 3, 2012 at 3:21 am

      While I think Mr Johnson has hit the proverbial nail on the head, I think you've hit upon the main reason for most of what Mr Johnson describes. It all comes down to money.
      About late 2009/early 2010, Larry Kirwan, an Irish writer and musician (leads the band Black 47), wrote a piece for the Irish Echo with a title line that expressed a similar sentiment to Mr Johnson. In talking about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he wondered why Americans were not more engaged on following what was going on. He concluded that we are over-entertained and under-informed. This popped into my head after reading about Mr Johnson in this article.
      I really wish something could be done to reverse this trend, but alas, I fear it won't happen in my lifetime. For now, it must be an individual responsibility.

      • Justin Pot
        October 3, 2012 at 2:36 pm

        Reminds me of Neil Postman's "Entertaining Ourselves To Death". Great essay if you want something else to read.

  41. Anonymous
    October 2, 2012 at 1:20 am

    What is the child poverty rate? It gives a % but not what child poverty is which makes it about as relevant a the $73 trillion RIAA demand. I am not saying there are not some good snippets here but for me to take in more of it will be difficult unless the roots of the statements are qualified.

  42. Lee McNeil
    October 2, 2012 at 12:33 am

    So says the tech article that turns out to be an advertisement for a book.

    • some guy
      October 2, 2012 at 10:29 pm

      *starts slow clap* *tips hat* i would give you a "comment of the day" award if that wouldn't also be the most ironic thing to do!

  43. Guus Pijnenburg
    October 1, 2012 at 9:45 pm

    Just thougt to be consuming some 'must know' but laid back info on a typical geeky site. Got a treat of relevant and thoughtprovoking ideas instead. Suprising, excellent.

  44. sl0j0n
    October 1, 2012 at 7:09 pm

    Hello, all.
    I'm greatly pleased by seeing this article on MakeUseOf.
    This is really a *GREAT* article, if for no other reason than its flawed analysis.
    "Politics" is one of the world's greatest problems, but most people don't see it.
    This guy, "Clay Johnson", goes on and on about what people *don't* do,
    all the while *failing* to acknowledge that he is *part* of the problem.
    He tells us that he got involved in "politics" because of a 'political failure'.
    But it wasn't his family's "health care" problem, that actually motivated him;
    it was his misguided education,
    that 'told' him he could 'work to solve the problem',
    when nothing could be further from the 'truth', or facts.
    This problem is far larger than "Democrat" or "Republican" ideology,
    although they are large parts of it.
    This problem actually goes to the core of all humanity's problems,
    which is partly a lack of a "real" education,
    and deliberately misleading propaganda.
    Back in the '30s and '40s, the socialists decided that the active,
    violent confrontations they were using then were counter-productive,
    and they were right.
    So, they set about using propaganda, particularly in the fields of education,
    and entertainment, which includes the "media", to 'convert' the sturdy,
    hard-headed, and independent-minded Americans to the socialist viewpoint.
    While Mr. Johnson is correct, as far as he goes, he fails to see the larger image.
    Today, those efforts to politically change the American landscape,
    have partly succeeded.
    So Mr. Johnson, having been educated to 'believe' certain things,
    then set about trying to accomplish what he had been taught was the 'right way',
    to solve the 'problem' of 'health care'.
    But, in reality, the problem is *NOT* 'health care', at all.
    The actual problem is that the socialists,
    by incorporating education and entertainment into the propaganda effort,
    have actually greatly contributed to the 'dumbing down' effect,
    whereby people *think* they *know* about a subject,
    but in reality their real level of accurate, useable information has been minimized,
    to the point of being little more than 'window dressing'.
    The real health-care problem is that the drug, insurance,
    and medical institutions have co-opted the 'political process',
    as a means to capitalize the human conditions of disease, illness, and injury,
    for their greater profit.
    As long as that fact remains relatively 'unknown',
    there will be *NO* effective 'solutions'.
    And the "Powers That Be" are not at all concerned about how that may impact you,
    or your loved ones.
    The other aspect of this situation is that people, as part of the propaganda effort,
    have been mislead to believe that each one of us is a 'god' in our own right,
    and that whatever we want is therefore a 'good' and 'desirable' goal.
    Again, nothing could be further from the 'truth', or the facts of the matter.
    Rather than teaching ourselves, and our children,
    about the *really* important things, for instance, morals,
    and their basis in a 'modern society',
    we have all, in general,
    chosen the 'easier' way out of facing and dealing with our responsibilities.
    I think a good example of that, is the terribly flawed 'political system',
    that continues to consume incredibly vast amounts of national resources,
    all the while failing miserably to accomplish anything of real value,
    due to its entire purpose having been subverted to continue a system,
    based almost entirely on corruption, and not on 'effective government'.
    While read MakeUseOf for its great technical info,
    I don't limit myself to just this one type of 'info diet'.

    Have a GREAT day, neighbors!

  45. Chris
    October 1, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    This is an outstanding summary of an issue that is of growing importance. Not all information is valuable, just like not all calories are valuable. Some are empty.

    Let my click be my vote - more "human" technology issues on MakeUseOf!

  46. Patricia Calvert
    October 1, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    I really appreciate this article! I have been in the midst of trying to change my internet habits and this article reaffirms my determination. Being older and with quite a bit less energy than those who are younger, it's important that I accomplish tasks that truly NEED to get done before my energy is sapped and I'm faced with two options: continue working at a lower quality level, or put the tasks on the back burner and watch as things pile up. It's just me here in my household, so there's no excuse for me not to get things done in a timely manner with quality results---if I organize my time and get my internet habits "trimmed down and in shape".

    The number one issue for me is how to know when I've gotten enough information? I'm the type who gets hooked on a subject or issue and will spend hours scrounging for the last bit of information on the subject. I obviously need to work on knowing when ENOUGH is ENOUGH! Perhaps keeping in the front of my mind, "Will it matter in five years?"

  47. Isaac Elesha
    October 1, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    this is quit cool!

  48. Ron
    October 1, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    I was REALLY surprised to see an article like this on your site. I thought you guys only dealt with the hard side of technology.
    THANKS! We all need some poking and prodding every now and then. But, unfortunately, I find in my travels that most people (young and old) just don't care about the vegetables, only the dessert.
    In this case, I'm actually talking about information concerning real food. I move about the southeast giving talks and demonstrations on organic gardening at schools, colleges, garden clubs, churches, and civic groups. People are absolutely horrified when told how their food is grown; what's in it; and, what terrible things it's doing to their bodies, minds, and emotions, and, how it makes them behave. There's always a handful of hardcore "foodies" who ask relevant and timely questions. But the 99% avoid making eye contact and run like hell when the session is over.
    A 29 year old fastfood female with whom I have regular contact says that she sees no reason why she should give up the food she loves. "It makes me feel good, and all this talk about healthy stuff is nothing more than older people trying to spoil everything! It just can't be that bad."
    When I tell her she wants the fast food because it's full of addictive chemicals and she's just like any other addict, she responds, "You've GOT to be kidding!"
    Her life is made up of reality shows, fantasy movies, shopping, fast food, and chocolate...and there ain't no room for nothin' else.

  49. Sam G
    October 1, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    I am soooooo guilty of being "that" guy. I like that MakeUseOf did this story. The only difficulty I see is that media is so polarized. Finding unbiased news is more difficult than it should be.

    • dragonmouth
      October 3, 2012 at 8:49 pm

      "The only difficulty I see is that media is so polarized."
      Look in the mirror sometimes. The amorphous "media" is made up of and run by real people. Real people are polarized, biased, opinionated. Therefore the "media" is polarized, biased, opinionated.

      "Finding unbiased news is more difficult than it should be."
      Finding unbiased news is impossible by definition. News is reported by people like you and me, and we ARE biased, whether or not we want to be. We cannot help but be biased. We are the sum total of our experiences and each experience colors our opinions. Our environment colors our opinions as well. In addition a language is a very imprecise means of transfering factual information. Words have multiple meanings. While I may intend one specific meaning, you, because of your experinces, may understand something entirely different.

      • James Franklin
        October 4, 2012 at 5:55 pm

        All I see is you debating on different articles, try and quite down a bit.

        • dragonmouth
          October 5, 2012 at 10:47 pm

          "All I see is you debating on different articles, try and quite down a bit."
          I am not aware that there is a daily or a monthly limit (or any kind of a limit, for that matter) on the number of articles one may comment on. Are you reprimanding me in your official capacity as one of the MUO moderators?

          BTW - there are many, many more articles that I have not nor do I wish to comment on.

        • Tina
          October 6, 2012 at 7:59 am

          All comments that are posted to enrich the conversation by sharing a reflection, a question, or an idea are appreciated.

          By the way, this was feedback from an official MakeUseOf moderator. We read all your comments.

        • Tina
          October 6, 2012 at 8:03 am

          We appreciate that you read comments and we would love to hear your thoughts more often. Please let MakeUseOf moderators like myself determine whether or not someone is posting too many comments. If you disagree with someone's opinion, please discuss on the subject.

    • Ryan Dube
      October 5, 2012 at 1:32 am

      I agree Sam - finding unbiased news these days is near impossible. I think it boils down to people doing their own research, looking up studies and finding the numbers. Not depending on journalists to do the work for us. People are really intelligent out there - you can see that right here in these comments. We can do our own research if we just slow down and take the time.

      • Yvonne
        October 14, 2012 at 10:59 am

        My morning reading is 3 'serious' online newspapers, but of differing political complexions. Helps to give a slightly more balanced view!

  50. Totoy Badiola
    October 1, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    Ha ha ha! Great job! When I saw my notification in my email, the title got me curious. Lose the bacns, that's what I'll do.

  51. Travis England
    October 1, 2012 at 10:56 am

    Amazing article. Interestingly, it made me feel slightly better about the things I read. I am the guy that knows the "odd" facts like poverty rates, GDP, current event (political, economic, etc.) because I find those things interesting. I have always facetiously called myself "a plethora of useless information", because most people don't care about those facts they consider depressing. Maybe I'm a fount of useful information that I need to share more often... Again, great read!

  52. Patrick Saunders
    October 1, 2012 at 8:28 am

    It's nice to know that I am at least halfway there. Cutting out the advertising was the best thing I ever did.

  53. Scutterman
    September 30, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    Can I just ask, out of curiosity, what value the quotes add to the article? Every single one of them is something I'm going to read in two or three lines time anyway, but my OCD won't let me skip them.

    • Justin Pot
      October 1, 2012 at 4:41 pm

      They're meant to catch the attention of people who are just scrolling through the article. When I put them there I thought they'd be justified to one side; that's not what happened.

      • Jack Johnson
        October 2, 2012 at 12:11 am

        count me as one of the people on whom it was effective.

      • Jim Spencer
        October 2, 2012 at 4:34 am

        Well, too many people hit what they think are the important highlights, but miss the boat completely! Good Article as food for thought!

  54. Zenphic
    September 29, 2012 at 6:41 pm

    Very insightful read. One of the better articles I've read in quite a while.

  55. 11308104
    September 29, 2012 at 3:03 pm

    Thats very interesting. Gives me a whole new look on what i consume.

  56. GrrGrrr
    September 29, 2012 at 2:34 pm

    Thanks Justin, nice article - with truth & facts.

  57. Nicki
    September 29, 2012 at 12:51 pm

    Very informative...great tools!

  58. macwitty
    September 29, 2012 at 12:58 am

    Should start every morning with an article like this and get a better day!

  59. D. K.
    September 29, 2012 at 12:33 am

    Really great Article, thanks
    Recently I realize, that i spent too much time for reading this "useless" informations and didn't do more important things. But I did a break and stop reading all this informations and focus on the important ones. Until now it works pretty well, but not as good as I expected (I'm trying to separate the Informations better)
    When I read this article, I also realize that I want always up-to-date with everything (Mails, Facebook, Twitter, ...) and now I think that it's not important to get from everything the newest informations. So I think, that I will make fixed times for "collecting" informations and maybe get more time for other (more important) things.

  60. Joel Lee
    September 29, 2012 at 12:29 am

    Wow. This was actually a very eye-opening read. I never thought about information consumption in the way that he describes it, but I fully agree.

    I always found it sad when liberals only read liberal material, conservatives only read conservative material, atheists only read atheist books, Christians only read Christian books, etc. Yet here I am, doing the same thing except with tech- and writing-related stuff.

    I think it's time that I start seriously looking into disconnecting myself from being plugged into the Internet 24/7.

    • Mitesh Budhabhatti
      September 29, 2012 at 8:34 am

      I think its not about disconnecting from being plugged into internet. It is about using technology to work on grassroots issues.

      • S.R.
        October 3, 2012 at 11:18 pm

        Notice he said, disconnect from being plugged in 24/7... he didn't say anything about disconnecting altogether.

        I for one agree with him. I spend far to much time in mindless pursuit of information that really serves me no advantage once I've found it other than to be more informed about trivia than the next person.

        Great article.

        • Mitesh Budhabhatti
          October 4, 2012 at 2:31 pm

          Indeed great article.. something i never expected on MUO.. i had kinda disagreement on being unplugged.. but u r right. he didnt mean 24/7.

    • Cliff Mccullar
      November 1, 2012 at 2:15 am

      Yeah i figured this out a while back, when i was always up with the latest and greatest technology wise, what i realized was that:
      A. Even if i need this information(for a job, family or friend) i can do a quick search for the piece i need(your max resolution is....) instead of spending hour after hour each week learning what the latest graphics card is, and what its gpu runs at and how many pipelines it has etc. This obviously applies to other things aside from tech. i think its great to learn the basics if you will, but unless your using something every day(say building high end gaming systems every day) you dont need to know the latest and greatest, not now or ever. I couldnt tell you the last time i looked for the latest and greatest video card, or what the newest best HD tv is. when im looking to build/buy one ill look it up then, and i wont have the clutter of 3 years worth of products i will never own or see in my head.

      B. A lot of how i was raised falls on learning to love to learn, about anything, and to look at different points of view. To that end before i became a atheist i read a large number of religious texts from a number of different religions. was it fun? not on its own, but it WAS fun seeing the other side(s) point of view, seeing where they disagree and why. I think if our race is to ever truely understand one another more people need to learn to do this, to realize that a different opinion doesnt necessitate a wrong or bad opinion.

      C. He isnt saying be disconnected, we are social creatures and that IS important to our development, he IS saying that you should limit yourself to "desert" however. In other words if your a doctor he isnt saying dont stay current on the latest practices, you SHOULD stay as current as possible on something like that. What he is saying is that you dont need a notification that a new angry birds app has come out right this second, wait till your "free" time if you will to check if their is an update. I check facebook about once every month, my email once a week, texts/messages once or twice a day. If it WAS important(say someone was in the hospital) they wouldnt be sending me an email about it, they would be calling me, and calling me again till they got a hold of me to let me know. Other than that the information CAN wait till im doing something less important.