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The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  1,996 ratings  ·  244 reviews
The 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, ...more
Hardcover, 150 pages
Published January 20th 2012 by O'Reilly (first published January 1st 2011)
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Average rating 3.51  · 
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Rebecca Schwarz
Sep 19, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: dnf
I'm giving this three stars because there are a few people I can think of that should read this for the distinction he makes between good information and junk information. And for his theory about our tendency to over-consume information and all things Internet just like we tend to over-consume junk food.

It's not getting more stars because it's really a great long-form essay that's been padded out to a slim book. Ironically, this book would have been better if it had gone on a diet!
May 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
I'm sad to see so many people here quibbling over the food/obesity analogy. Here's what I think of the analogy: it doesn't matter. Yeah, it doesn't work in some ways, but who cares? Most metaphors don't. The issue raised by this book is the most important issue facing America today. I'm not prone to hyperbole, I really believe that.

I'm giving this book 4 stars despite the following:
1) The book contains a surprising number of grammatical errors.
2) The entire 'prescription' section is weak (
Jan 21, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: pop-sci, politics
Information - you're doing it wrong.

Clay Johnson's book is about the information you take in, and the effects it has on you and society. Using the analogy of food and nutrition, he argues that the data we are consuming is the equivalent of processed food, full of fats, salt, sugar, and all other sorts of nasties.

His ire falls on the multitude of websites pushing bite-sized snippets of junk out into the world, the headlines that enrage more than enlighten, the link-bait tr
Mar 23, 2012 rated it liked it
Sundown on Friday, March 23 marks the beginning of the third annual Day to Disconnect, when people are urged to turn off their electronic devices and connect with the world around them. Started by a Jewish group called Reboot, the group recommends that the following principles be followed:

Avoid technology.
Connect with loved ones.
Nurture your health.
Get outside.
Avoid commerce.
Light candles.
Drink wine.
Eat bread.
Find silence.
Ian Samuel
Jan 02, 2012 rated it did not like it
This is a skinny-fat volume of pop neurology. Or, no, wait: it's a series of short paragraphs from a time management seminar in 2007. Wait, no. It's a pat paen to openness in government (sorta) and citizen activism (of a sort). Hmm, well... Truth to tell, it's best to think of this book as three long essays, none of which have virtually anything to do with one another, all three of which are significantly longer than they ought to be, and most of which are pockmarked with poor writing and outrig ...more
Feb 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Book Review Assignment: The Information Diet


John Clay, an author, activist, and a former Washington insider, wrote, the Information Diet, a book that he wants to persuade his readers on how we must consume and process information in the wake of the 21st century. John addresses the transformation that has happened to the information cycle, and the necessity to shift along with, in order to avoid many possible negative consequences. John hopes to achieve this,
Apr 27, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012
A call to action for better information habits combined with a recommended information diet.

Moderation, moderation, moderation -- the key to everything, it seems, yet so easy to forget when you have to check your tweets and Facebook and Pinterest and have three (or four) digit numbers in your RSS unread folder only to loop through it again and again, in between personal e-mails and work e-mails and television shows between Netflix movies.
Johnson's political perspective provided an i
Joaquín Padilla
Feb 03, 2012 rated it liked it
I must say the book has a monotonous descending slope. The first part, based in the parallels between the food industry and the information industry, equated by mass production farming, huge disconnection between sources and markets, and an unbalanced trade-off between nutritiousness and sinful pleasures, makes a compelling case.

However, from that first, well argumented point of view, it seems quite likely that the author didn't spend the same time with the other parts of the book, a
Kevin Faustino
Jan 05, 2012 rated it it was ok
I wish I didn't waste my time reading this book. It is heavly focused on politics and has little benifit to the reader. The only chapter really well done was the one about content farms.

Do yourself a favour and skip this one. I would just look at the list of helpful tools from the blog:

Jane Costanza
Dec 24, 2016 rated it it was ok
I'm giving it two stars just because there is a section on content farms that is interesting. Otherwise, a book badly in need of editing. Sections were obviously taken from blog posts and meshed together, badly. The author's main metaphor: our relationship with information is like our relationship with food. So, just like how we eat empty processed calories, we consume information that already affirms what we believe, and/or from content farms that are mostly interested in selling advertisements ...more
Sep 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Pleasantly surprised I was already following a version of this diet...
Katie Nolan
Jan 19, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: xdo-not-finish
I watched "Better Activism" livestream organized by Clay Johnson the other day and found him very intelligent and thoughtful. So despite my reservations regarding the moralistic sound of the title, I decided to at least read the Kindle sample.

Full disclosure - I have read only the sample, and I will not be reading more. I think his core idea - that more information is not necessarily better information, and that we should be conscious of the information we consume - is sound, but the
Dec 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Book Review
By Nicole Boyer

The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption

The Information Diet is a book that correlates “obesity” with having a balance of over consumption of information and how to distinguish and maintain a balance. This book is gearing towards an audience that has the ability to identify an issue and is willing to adapt and make changes easily in order to be effective. It provides great insight on how to make small goals to achieve a well b
Dec 15, 2012 rated it liked it
The Information Diet is a strong analysis of the problems with our information consumption that falters as it seeks to find a solution. The book is built around a central metaphor: our problems with information are like our problems with obesity in that, like with food, it's not a matter of consuming too much but a matter of consuming too much that is low-quality, nutritionally-empty, but cheap and "tasty." In this case, this information equivalent of junk food is fear-mongering and affirmation that ...more
May 14, 2012 rated it liked it
This book is worth reading. I appreciated that it was short, which is rare in nonfiction.

The premise of the book is basically this: "Consume deliberately. Take information over affirmation."

You may not agree with this author on every point. He is after all, a liberal democrat. Gasp! (I like that he openly admits his biases.) I especially enjoyed his personal stories. His "delusion" while working on the Dean campaign (his word, not mine.) His surprise friendship with Carl
Jan 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: popcomp
Watch what you put in your mind, just as you watch what you put in your mouth. Be deliberate, lest you waste your life and accidentally become stupid. Look to modern thinking on food to guide how you consume information. That's Clay's thesis in a nutshell, and most of the book is a component-by-component elaboration on the food=information metaphor, culminating in Clay's advice on how to be a discriminating thoughtful and measured information consumer. He says things I agree with, yet I have res ...more
Jan 08, 2012 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone with too many feeds, podcasts or sources of info to keep up with
Shelves: e-book
A quick, thought-provoking read that left me wanting more. But as Johnson points out, we're dealing with a new phenomenon so the ways forward from here haven't all been discovered yet.

We often speak about 'information overload', but since the invention of the printing press hundreds of years ago there has always been more information available than one person could consume in a lifetime. Johnson suggests that 'information obesity' is a better metaphor for what we face today: junk factoids pushe
Henk-Jan van der Klis
Nov 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
New Year's Resolution for 2013: stay healthy regarding your information consumption. Study and practice The Information Dietby Clay Johnson. Johnson helps you to make choices to avoid information overconsumption. His first claim: information overload doesn't exist, just as food overload is nonexistent. It's the amount and - more important - quality that you consume, that makes or breaks your (mental) health. The author digs this metaphor over and over again and shares good practices for better i ...more
David Park
When I began rationing (and rationalizing) my internet usage because I was spending too much time on the Internet I realized this was fundamentally about how I process information - email, Facebook, and link hopping.

CAJ says to treat your information like food. In Part One he makes the argument of comparing information to food and why we enjoy consuming so much of both. My favorite part was that consuming the same 'junk' information will strengthen our 'reality dysmorphia,' a cogniti
Mike Vardy
Dec 28, 2012 rated it really liked it
Whether you spend time online or offline, we are getting hit with a ton of information each and every day. How we deal with that information is fundamental to our lives; what we choose take in can strongly impact our way we see the world. Johnson’s book is a meaty read, and might be tough to digest for some people. But it’s a healthy one as well.

I can’t think of many books that are more important to check out, no matter the time of year. While a nutritional lifestyle change is often
Stacy Taylor
Mar 18, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2012, nonfiction
This was basically a regurgitation of The Filter Bubble and The Shallows, both of which were superior books. While there were some good sources for information, the primary message was not so much one of how to deal with information overload (or information obesity as the author calls it) as one of how to be better informed so you can be a better citizen and be more involved in politics. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but that's not why I picked this book. Overall, the book was scattered, a ...more
Feb 27, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This book helped me realize that I'm a dopamine fiend. That is, my getting stuck in those facebook-gmail-text loops is me waiting for another notification, which feels good to get. The author suggests setting aside certain times of day to check email, which I should really do. The author did bring in his own political opinions, which I didn't care to know, but the rest the book is concise enough.
Christie Martel
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. As an information professional I can completely understand his argument/philosophy.
And, come on, he quotes Michael Pollan... How can you not like that?
I've come across these ideas elsewhere, but this was a very readable way in which to consume them.
Oct 14, 2018 rated it liked it
The Information Diet is a book about becoming conscious of the information every individual decides to consume every day. This book is intended for everyone however I think it is especially geared towards those who use the internet more than those who do not. The purpose of the book is to show us how we consume information and help each of us to evaluate the quality of that information and the author does so with the comparison throughout the book to food and nutrition.

The author starts out the
David Sasaki
Jan 02, 2012 rated it liked it
One never says that a lung cancer victim dies of “cigarette overload” ... Why, then, do we blame the information for our ills?

Clay Johnson is the latest of his class to take a few steps back and ask himself, "wait a minute, why wan't I able to revolutionize the world in just ten years thanks to my mastery of the Internet?"

From 2000 - 2007 we suffered from a scarcity of access to knowledge and information. In 2004 veteran business journalist Dan Gillmor published We the Media to cele
David Calhoun
Jul 25, 2017 rated it liked it
I wanted to like this one more. I starts out strong, and it's hard to disagree with the points drawn between too much bad food and too much bad information. But it sort of gets lazy as the book progresses, as it turns into preaching like it's straight out of some TED talk.

The analogy gets lazily stretched at times; mass food production and mass information production do have parallels, but they are not 100% analogous (then again, nothing is, by the very definition of what an analogy
Oct 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
The book is short and pretty alright. It's a pretty decent metaphor about how we should be careful what information we consume (just like we do with food). Somehow this book wasn't particularly interesting to me but not a bad read.

Probably the most interesting story was in Ch 3 where the author said it costs AOL about $15 to make a piece of content (an article) and it will make them a few hundred dollars. The people who make this content are extremely pressed for time. They are only
David Rosen
Dec 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Recipe for Curing Information Overload

The first half of the book is, in a word, "awesome." I haven't had my point of view on the media so rocked since Clay Shirky's, "Here Comes Everybody."

Johnson makes the case that knowing how to filter information is a new skill, akin to literacy. Further, the comparison to obesity isn't a marketing ploy to sell the book. It's a serious examination of how over-consumption of data is scarily like the overconsumption of food. Johnson
Aleksandra Gacevic
Aug 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
First 2/3 of the book are full of useful data, facts and trends and the author makes many good comments on the way we consume all the (fake) facts and news around us. He is also giving a lot of resources and backing up his claims, with passages full of explanation on how and why we are biased toward certain outcomes/conclusions. First part, the theoretical, is so good that I made over 40 quotations and it provoked several questions. However, the practical part does not give any new tools for dea ...more
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“Chances are, if we can't laugh at something, we can't think rationally about it.” 6 likes
“Nobody has a maximum amount of storage for fat, and it’s unlikely that we have a maximum capacity for knowledge.” 3 likes
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