Last night while sitting at a pub with some friends, the topic of information came up. My friend Tom, in particular, had a few interesting things to say about it. I asked him if he thought that constantly being tapped into the stream of information that the online world affords us was bad thing. Is our constant connection to blog posts, news articles, video, podcasts, Twitter, and Facebook more detrimental than positive? Are we a culture of information junkies?
His response, essentially was “no”. He basically said that in fact (and I’m paraphrasing) we have always been able to tap into information whenever we wanted to. Back in the old days, Tom said he used to scour through encyclopedias, magazines, and books all day long. He was always consuming information and learning new things. I thought back to my younger days and realized I did much the same. You probably did too. The difference is, said Tom, these days information is with us wherever we go. We carry the encyclopedia, and magazines, and book in our pockets. Information is always there, on any topic. It’s an amazing thing, said Tom, and it’s a good thing.
Earlier this week I thought about taking some time off from the digital world. I did put my devices away for a period of time, got outside, did some offline things (something I often do anyway). But I realized something rather quickly. I enjoy the stream of information. I love reading, and learning new things…online, I learn something new every single day.
I like feeling connected to other people. I don’t get to see my friends like Diane, Liz and Jon in person very often because we live in different countries, but sharing a friendly hello via tweet or text, or watching them talk on a video they’ve made fills me with joy and love. Other friends like Glenda and Becky, I’ve never even met in person before, but they are as much a part of my days as if they were my next door neighbours. I want to check in with them. I love to say hello, and find out how their day is going. This doesn’t make me an information junkie. This makes me human.
I also love to share. I feel like I’m on this journey of learning and finding new information together, with everyone I come in contact with, online and offline. It’s one of the reasons I became a teacher. I love to share the things I’m learning. I love it when people share things they’ve learned with me too. It enriches every part of my life, and I don’t want to “take a break” from that. I don’t need to.
I flipped on the TV yesterday afternoon, just out of curiosity. I don’t watch a ton of TV, especially not in the daytime. As I flipped the channels, I discovered that about 98% of what I was seeing was the equivalent of eating the worst kind of junk food – mindless, ridiculous “reality” programs highlighting only the worst in people. When did gawking at people behaving badly become a form of entertainment? Yet these programs continue to stay on the air.
After about 10 minutes, I shook my head in disgust, shut off the TV, and picked up my iPad again. I happily spent the next hour finding and reading and sharing and connecting and learning.
So you know what? You can go ahead and call me an information junkie. It’s a badge I’ll wear proudly. I would much rather fill my head with healthy knowledge and love than junk food. I’d much rather connect and share with real people than stare at some mindless, static box that isn’t the real world at all. And don’t worry. I still like to step outside and smell the roses and hug people in person too. The beauty is, I get to do both, and most importantly, I get to choose.