consumerismRecently I read a blog post that went something like: “Hello, my name is Peter, and I’m an infoholic.”

And: No matter what today’s geeky feel-good culture tells you, there is already a creeping sense that maybe – after the great “unboxing” of our new gadgets – the hoped for satisfaction will not be as long lasting as expected. Compare the average time a person spends in front of a Steve Jobs store with the longevity of happiness resulting from the purchase.

After an initial spike of excitement, it’s basically downhill from there.

The same principle can be observed in our consuming of information, but there it’s even cheekier, subtler, harder to detect!

Gimme that Remote!

How many articles have you consumed today? How many comments have you read? Emails checked? Tweets processed?

The resulting number is living evidence of a wide spread “information addiction”

Whereas the baby boomer generation liked to point the fingers at the materialistic lifestyle of suburban America only to then grow into the Ben & Jerry’s of today – consumerism hasn’t been sleeping, either. In fact it has developed from consuming insane amounts of material goods to taking in more information than the brain can process, leading to anxiety and stress.

The newspaper is a good example. It is full of irrelevant information. Yet we stuff our brain cells with it, fueled by the fear not to be “up to date” or lack the conversational crumbs for next party. This mechanism has existed for quite some time. Television gave it irreversible power over every aspect of our lives. The Net put it on Steroids!

Our addiction to information has become like a parasite, and somehow what Gibson wrote about mass-media influence in the future doesn’t seem all so distant any more:

“[Slitscan’s audience] is best visualized as a vicious, lazy, profoundly ignorant, perpetually hungry organism craving the warm god-flesh of the anointed. Personally I like to imagine something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It’s covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth, Laney, no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote. Or by voting in presidential elections.” – Idoru

Time to Dis-Identify!

There’s nothing wrong about enjoying a good book, movie or blog post like this one. But if all of these become simply activities to satisfy a perpetual addiction to “information for information’s sake” we’re in BIG trouble.
Remember this old story where the professor goes to visit the Zen master to ask him about “the meaning of life” – but the master sends him back because – to use our language – his mind is full of crap!?
Average knowledge has sky-rocketed. We have all become like this professor. Filled with knowledge and still aching for more like a junkie looking for the next fix.
The solution:
  1. Declutter Your Life: Reduce the stuff you own and the information you process to bare-essentials. If you see how hard it is, you are already one step closer. No need to beat yourself up about it. It all starts with observing what’s going on.
  2. Use the new-found space to create, contribute and communicate!

The first step will help dis-identify from the “infoholic” parasite that has taken us over and regain consciousness. The second step is to exercise an anti-muscle so as to not fall back into the same pattern.

You can find more information about this in my recent book.

But even if after this blog post you have queued 20 other articles to read, tweets to process and email to check – I want to leave you with just one simple idea:

You will not die if you stop taking in information. Seriously. Our information addiction is just a software running inside of your system. Many people think that this is who they are. (And then have a guilty conscience!) The good news: You aren’t! Important information will find its way to your attention without being “jacked in” 24/7 anyways. And no, doing business online is not an excuse to have the Matrix pumping information into your veins without pause. That new lead you are looking for will not come while you are sitting in front of the screen, anyways.

So – maybe – while these words are being read – a little pause occurs…

…And through this tiny window a sense of opportunity, lightness and freedom appears.

Then my job is done. Have a Great Week!