Monday, 17 October 2016

My name is Jon Puleston and I am addicted to information

From the moment I get up in the morning to the last thing at night I am immersed in information gathering.

News was something I used to read once a day. Ever since having a smart phone my propensity to consume news has slowly increased month by month - and with the ever increasing proliferation of news aggregation apps, it’s becoming something I dip into almost every spare moment during the day.   The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning and last thing I do at night before switching off my phone is check the “news” .  It had become a total addiction.  In addition to news there is social media, which I consume with equal levels of hunger, be it Facebook or Twitter or Linkedin.  When I run out of new information from these sources to consume, I switch to doing things like looking through pictures on Instagram or virtual shopping on ebay.

During the day I find myself checking out “the news” every time I have a break, make a coffee, go to grab lunch, go to the toilet or in the middle of a dull meeting.  Whilst watching TV I find my hand reaching out so often to my smart phone to double screen consume information, whilst I listen to the radio news while eating breakfast I am scanning the same news on my mobile.    When I stop at a traffic light I stifle the instict to grab my phone.  While I walk down the street anywhere my head is down foraging like a hungry pig for news truffles.

The way I am using news information is changing too. I find myself getting so emotionally involved, in the same way perhaps as you get hooked into soap operas if you watch them every day.

I find I am far more drawn into politics than I have been in the past.  The campaigning and social nature of information content is so much more significant than it once was.

Politics for me is replacing soap operas literally.

The major news stories like the Scottish referendum,  the UK election, the EU referendum, the US election have all completely hooked me in. I have literally mainlined news content from these political stories.

…and how I am using and processing this information goes way beyond objective information gathering.  What I am looking for so often are arguments and evidence that support my point of view.  I am highly practiced in SCHADENFREUDE, delighting in reading about the downfall of political foes, people with opposite opinions having their arguments skilfully met.

The more news information I consume the broader the range of topics I need to consume to feed my habit…

Take sport for example, I don’t watch much football these days, but I do consume vast amounts of football information.  I track the action of most of the matches on a Saturday afternoon via news updates that ping me whenever certain teams score.  I listen to football pundits on the radio talking about football for hours a week.  I ferociously consume transfer news gossip and read numerous sporting blogs.

For all the tut-tutting I am probably drawn into as much salacious celebrity gossip as your average teenager - but at the same time, and paradoxically, I’m equally drawn into hard core science information – some in depth article about a breakthrough in quantum physics or some Kardashian  family antics are all hoovered up into my brain with little differentiation, hanging around for a short while before fading into the soup of other meaningless information I have consumed.

Searching for distractions

I find myself getting more increasingly distracted too, doing all those stupid mind challenges they post on Facebook, I am like a moth drawn to them like a light.  I have always been an obsessional problem solver and so struggle to ever pass a problem without wanting to think about it.

Entertain me, feed me with news, tell me something I didn’t know, titillate me, arouse me, impress me, make me feel happy, make me feel outraged, tell me a secret, fill the void, surprise me, confirm to me I am normal, summarise the complicated, provide me with a cheat sheet to life, wow me, take me out of the now to a more interesting place, feed me with information about new technology, pander to my political sensibilities, align with my point of view, tell me something bad about Donald trump, help me to feel any emotion, I don’t really care which one it is.

Let me be clear this is a serious addiction

Akin to smoking cigarettes and taking heroin you chase the dragon of dopamine hits, but the more you do it the less you get out of it. Perversely this forces you to consume ever larger quantities of it to the point that you realise that it’s taking over your thinking patterns and disrupting your life.

And its not just me who’s hooked,  if you are reading this you are likely to be hooked too!

It’s a global epidemic.

Snow my partner came across this New York times article recently and sent it too me, its long but worth a read

The comparison I make is with alcohol consumption in the middle ages. When beer started to become freely available, with the development of brewery skills everyone drank beer all day long without constraint, even young children drank it and it and took a few centuries to understand the negative impact it could have on our lives and to establish the social rules for its consumption.

We are at similar point in history I think with information consumption on our mobile phones. It is rather getting out of control. We are all trying to fight it I am sure, like for example banning phones from meal times and establishing social rules for when it’s acceptable to whip out your phone, but I think there is still a long way to go.

Investigating information addiction.

With this background I decided to do some research to examine how are we are processing this sea of information we are consuming nowadays.

What type of information is cutting through and why?
How do brands actually cut though and compete?

If you are interested to find out more about this subject come to the MRS Customers Exposed event on Thursday 27th when I will be exploring this topic and revealing some of the results of this research.

Mea Culpa

As Mark one of my best friends politely reminds me sometimes.  I am both observing the problems but have become part of the problem too. The information I am delivering is rather adding and abetting to process which is on my conscious.

If you feel like you are suffering from this addiction and looking to make steps to deal with it here is a website I found useful.


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  2. Hi Jon - i cannot make the MRG event but would love to see a copy of the talk if possible. Great post. Thanks, Chris