Excerpt from The Information Diet, by Clay Johnson

Clay Johnson is the author of The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption, which has been getting a lot of media attention lately: Weekend Edition, Triangulation, Atlantic, The Wirecutter, to name a few. I haven't read it yet, because I'm too busy consuming other sources of information. But it's on my to-read list!

201202071022The modern human animal spends upwards of 11 hours out of every 24 in a state of constant consumption. Not eating, but gorging on information ceaselessly spewed from the screens and speakers we hold dear. Just as we have grown morbidly obese on sugar, fat, and flour—so, too, have we become gluttons for texts, instant messages, emails, RSS feeds, downloads, videos, status updates, and tweets.

We're all battling a storm of distractions, buffeted with notifications and tempted by tasty tidbits of information. And just as too much junk food can lead to obesity, too much junk information can lead to cluelessness. The Information Diet shows you how to thrive in this information glut—what to look for, what to avoid, and how to be selective. In the process, author Clay Johnson explains the role information has played throughout history, and why following his prescribed diet is essential for everyone who strives to be smart, productive, and sane.

In The Information Diet, you will:

• Discover why eminent scholars are worried about our state of attention and general intelligence
• Examine how today’s media—Big Info—give us exactly what we want: content that confirms our beliefs
• Learn to take steps to develop data literacy, attention fitness, and a healthy sense of humor
• Become engaged in the economics of information by learning how to reward good information providers
• Just like a normal, healthy food diet, The Information Diet is not about consuming less—it’s about finding a healthy balance that works for you

Read an excerpt (PDF)

Buy The Information Diet on Amazon



  1. Commentary, advice & recommendations at total of 59%?  No thanks, I’m trying to cut down!

    I would rather get my history and science intake up to around 25% each.

  2. It seems like my hold list at the library never gets any shorter. That is because of all the time I spend on this site.

  3. I read the excerpt and was not impressed. It’s well-written and engaging but seemed to be all about food diets. I think it would of been better to share an excerpt from a later chapter, something more relevant to the actual topic of the book.

  4. “We’re all battling a storm of distractions” and, if we’re battling, most of the time the enemy is us. A great majority of information with which we are assaulted we, of our own volition, subject ourselves to. Last I heard, you have to voluntary sign up for Twitter, Facebook, a data and text plan from your cell phone company, cable television, etc. We justify it by every else has it, it’s cool, we need it, we can’t get by without it. Books like Bit Literacy helped me navigate the information in my life a bit more deftly. A few days ago I overhead a young woman in a restaurant say that she spent three hours on YouTube the other day and she thinks she’s addicted because she didn’t get here homework done. Since addiction is defined as the continued use of any mind or mood altering behavior despite negative consequences. there’s always the possibility of starting a Information Addicts Anonymous group. 

    1. Yes, it’s more like addiction than being forced to consume.  It’s like the ice cream makers all got together and placed ice cream EVERYWHERE.  On every corner, at every office, a little dispenser that comes out of your computer, your phone.  Your panera chicken almond salad comes with ice cream.  Your newspaper comes with ice cream.  Your car has ice cream coming out of the radio.  Ice cream EVERYWHERE.

      How could you help but get fat with all this fucking ICE CREAM EVERWHERE?

      Oh wait, my metaphor isn’t a metaphor.  It’s reality.

  5. I found this excerpt to be very interesting. I like the analogy of consuming food vs. consuming information because it is very evident in society that both of these have transformed into addictions. We now have to be aware of how healthy we are being in terms of the quality and quantity of information that we take in. 

  6. I’ve tried going on an information diet. It’s very, very hard for me.

    Cut out sugar, junk food, processed foods, meat, etc.? Easy.

    Cut out ceaseless gorging on information? Very, very hard :(

    Is there an IA chapter I could visit?

  7. I recently started journalling to try to figure out where the time goes. Using different contrasting colors for different task categories. Facebook, articles, twitter, now pinterest as well, all are in the same category. I’m monitoring very closely when that category gets switched on. The scattershot variety in the topics in my daily information feeds distracts just as much when I’m reviewing truncated notes about them as it does when I read them in the morning.

    On the negative side, logging this stuff costs time as well. On the positive side, fewer ideas are being lost and I’m seeing new patterns in the information.

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