Twitter and Facebook are an Important Part of a Balanced Information Diet

I get wisecracks all day long: “You don’t find it ironic that you are promoting a book called The Information Diet on Twitter.” Or “Is this a book about why you shouldn’t use Facebook? Then why are you posting on Facebook about it?” Or my favorite “If you’re such an information diet guru, how come you tweeted 9 times today.” Who’s counting?!

It’s strange! Where did this idea come from, that somehow information from a social network was less “good” than information from a newspaper? Is it twitter’s mandatory brevity? Facebook’s penchant for party picks? I suspect that while Eli’s book did well, we cannot all be concerned about Filter Bubbles right?

The Information Diet – which just shipped its kindle version today – is about building a framework for healthy habits around your intake. Part of that echoes what we now know about food – that the choices we make around our own diet have an ethical consequence: consuming junk supports a system that begets more junk not just for you, but it also sustains a system that provides junk for others.

It turns out that one big takeaway for this ethical problem with food is to consume locally – and interestingly enough, that’s much of what The Information Diet recommends too. But “local” is different in the world of information. Of course “buying local” means consuming information that’s geographically close to you: watching a few minutes of your local news, for instance – or using EveryBlock to see what’s going on in your neighborhood. But it also means looking for things that are “socially local” – information about what’s happening with the people who are closest to you, no matter where they live.

It turns out that networks like Facebook and Twitter are perfect for consuming your socially proximate information. They’re not bad for an information diet, they’re critical to having a balanced one. But only if you use these tools smartly and proactively – by eliminating cruft, and consuming deliberately from these sources. Granted, spending the day on Facebook is not great for your information diet. But eating bowl after bowl of fiber-one cereal is probably not great for your food diet either.

Sure Twitter and Facebook are no substitute for being physically present with your loved ones, and having meaningful social interactions with them. But as long as you are deliberate about both (there are some great tips in the book about this) then you can use these tools to your advantage. So let’s not dismiss the tools because they’re technical, or out of some kind of strange generational preference. The problem is rarely in the medium itself and usually in either the habits of the user, or the system that supports it.

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