A few years ago I read an article that talked about a phenomenon called ‘Infodiction’ which is basically the condition of being addicted to information.
With mobile phones that can access your e-mails, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and a plethora of other social media. Wifi enabling super-fast internet access everywhere you go and TV channels devoted entirely to the events that are happening that very minute all across the globe there are plenty of temptations to plug in and mentally upload all this information. The stranger thing is, the more information you access the more you seem to want. I know this from personal experience.
Apparently it’s all down to dopamine which is the chemical in our brains that causes us to seek things out. This doesn’t just mean those caveman (or cavewoman) urges for food and sex but to search for ideas and information too. So now with all these ways of accessing information, we have a method for obtaining instant gratification. To make matters worse, research suggests that the dopamine system isn’t easily quelled which is why, in a very “Pavlovian” way, each ping for an incoming e-mail or every web-page you open enhances the effects.
This thirst for knowledge isn’t all bad and I’m sure it has helped us to make scientific and technological advances. However, there is evidence to suggest that there are issues related to it.
Being addicted to information can be extremely exhausting, can apparently lead to short term memory loss and be responsible for attention disorders as the brain seeks to get its next fix of data. More worryingly, infodiction seems to make acquiring data of a higher value than understanding and knowledge.
So what can you do about it?
There are lots of things that we can do to manage this addiction and recognising that eliminating the sources of information isn’t one of them. In the modern world in which we live this isn’t practical nor is it helpful.
The first thing I would suggest is choosing to take on the right information – can you read a good thought-provoking blog rather than endlessly pouring over your Facebook and Twitter accounts? In addition to Stuck On Amber, two blogs I would heartily recommend are Seth Godin‘s blog and Rohan Rajiv’s blog called A Learning A Day.
Secondly, choose the right times to feed your information addiction – can you schedule specific and limited timeslots to read e-mails in your day rather than diving back in to them every time they flash up on your screen? There is a podcast series I listen to called Manager Tools that advocates reading e-mails just three times a day which I have found has massively improved my focus and productivity.
This leads to the third tactic which is to work without distraction – can you define the 5 things you need to get done that day and then do whatever is necessary to turn off all the other diversions? There are lots of things you can do to stem the flow of information from turning of your alerts (both visual and aural!) through to turning off your router if you need to.
Finally, if the addiction is proving too strong why not find a replacement habit – can you go for a walk, read a book, meditate or get a drink of water instead of seeing who has posted new photographs on their Instagram account?
If you can employ these tactics for a month you will have a new set of habits far more aligned to helping you deliver your goals.
P.S. Yes, I realise the irony of this post, so now that you’ve read it go for a walk in the countryside…..