Hi, I'm a digital junkie, and I suffer from infomania
January 20, 2016 9:44 AM   Subscribe

Infomania, defined by the Oxford dictionary as “the compulsive desire to check or accumulate news and information, typically via mobile phone or computer.” "I was recently described, to my face, as a 'modern digital junkie.' This diagnosis was given to me, half in jest, by Dr. Dimitrios Tsivrikos, consumer psychologist at University College London, when I described my symptoms to him. After spending my workday tapping, swiping and emailing, I come home and — despite my exhaustion and twitching eyes — I want to consume more online. But I’m not even absorbing the articles, tweets and posts that I peruse. I’m just skipping from page to page, jumping from link to link."

"For many of us, this becomes a self-perpetuating cycle. We know our attention span is limited, but even if our phone doesn’t buzz with a text, we self-interrupt. We check email one more time. We look at our Twitter or Instagram feed. We don’t resist clicking on that link. It could be funny! Or contain life-changing information! Or at least provide conversation material for that holiday party tonight! We are inadvertently training our minds to seek digital interaction with little deeper intellectual payoff."
posted by narancia (47 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
 
consumer psychologist

So...market researcher?
posted by clockzero at 9:46 AM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


that's how i got here
posted by radiosilents at 9:47 AM on January 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


shut up. no I'm not. even if I am I'm not.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:48 AM on January 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


I so am. *shrug*
posted by wenestvedt at 9:51 AM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Info Freako, there is no end
To what I want to know

I hate things like this, that is the deliberate blurring between variable human experience and pathology. "mania" "junkie" Let's just leave room for people to do things, even things that may not be making them happy, without turning it into something that can get you a diagnosis and treatment.
posted by OmieWise at 9:51 AM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Just more fuel for us to "not get" the "next generation", and fall into the same trap as older generations. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
posted by mysticreferee at 10:09 AM on January 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Reading this on one of 14 Chrome tabs.
posted by gottabefunky at 10:11 AM on January 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


Let's just leave room for people to do things, even things that may not be making them happy, without turning it into something that can get you a diagnosis and treatment.

I mean, sure. But for a lot of folks it's behavior that's making them horribly unhappy.
posted by Celsius1414 at 10:12 AM on January 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


I read the World Book straight off the shelf when I was a kid. I am going to die trying to drink from the firehose of Internet information.
posted by Countess Elena at 10:13 AM on January 20, 2016 [43 favorites]


I find the best way to break this cycle is to go somewhere that wifi is either unavailable or very expensive.

When I was a kid I had nightmares about running out of books to read. When I was in 8th grade, I had to start using the high school's library because I'd read every book at the junior high library already.

The Internet might be the most magical information delivery system I've ever encountered, and I'm only half-ashamed to admit how much I love it.

But I'll admit to worrying about too much screen time; I also worry about kids learning to use tablets in preschool.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:17 AM on January 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


I mean, sure. But for a lot of folks it's behavior that's making them horribly unhappy.

Ok. Then they probably have another diagnosis. If we need a new diagnosis every time there's a change to the means with which people can make themselves unhappy, then our nosology is broken.
posted by OmieWise at 10:18 AM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


I'm like a modern digital junkie but for heroin
posted by item at 10:18 AM on January 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


Oh, and I had this dream the other night -- I don't usually talk about my dreams, I promise, but this was the kind that makes you feel guilty when you wake up.

It was a Twitter feed, full of avatars and usernames that I didn't recognize. Every word was legible, every sentence was correct, and yet I could read none of it. It simply rolled past, and past, and past . . .
posted by Countess Elena at 10:20 AM on January 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


One of the reasons I have a book goal is to redirect this impulse toward FOMO information-wise to something that requires a longer attention span.
posted by immlass at 10:27 AM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Guilty as charged.
posted by blurker at 10:31 AM on January 20, 2016


Reading this on one of 14 Chrome tabs.

amateur
posted by entropicamericana at 10:32 AM on January 20, 2016 [14 favorites]


One of my friends recently downgraded to a non-smart phone and I'm a little jealous.

I want it sometimes, because it's useful to be able to look things up when I'm out and about. But I miss reading books like I used to.

Remember that kickstarter for the phone that somehow connected to your smartphone but did nothing but make and receive calls? I want that, except for text, because no one makes calls anymore. With emoji and group texts and the ability to at least receive images. But no social media, no browser.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 10:48 AM on January 20, 2016


I have always been an hypermnesiac, information junkie, always. The web for info? Great stuff. Constant back and forth? Texts ping, ping, ping-not so much. A toast to the more efficient world mind, world data mine, not so much.
posted by Oyéah at 10:52 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


> But I miss reading books like I used to.

Don't y'all realise... you've already broken your attention spans. You can't ever go back.

Prove me wrong.... please
posted by Leon at 10:59 AM on January 20, 2016


I've always classified it as an addiction to novelty. It's always been there, we all just have larger firehoses now.
posted by JoeZydeco at 11:22 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


just quitting Twitter got me my book reading time back. I read primarily on an iPad via Kindle, iBooks, and other ereader apps, so the temptation to check FB is still there. But since FB has less concentrated witticisms, it's easier to control the twitch.

I have found my pre-digital concentration skill remains available. I have no idea how this might affect, say, kids. They won't necessarily have the experience of shifting their consciousness fully into a book, free of online shiny distraction. I would guess it works like TV, where families that left the tube on all the time produced fewer high-concentration readers.
posted by mwhybark at 11:23 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


radiosilents: "that's how i got here"

It's why I'm still here
posted by chavenet at 11:25 AM on January 20, 2016


I've always classified it as an addiction to novelty. It's always been there, we all just have larger firehoses now.

Yeah I was like this before - it just takes much longer to read everything available now.

Also I absolutely absorb all that information. It's just... not that useful most of the time.
posted by atoxyl at 11:26 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Anybody else noticed that the frequently cited 189819-letter length of the IUPAC name for titin is wrong, and should actually be 239356 for the canonical isoform or at most 249936 for isoform 12?

Just idly wondering.
posted by flabdablet at 11:28 AM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Infomania sounds like it requires you are getting informed. That's why I only watch cat videos and pratfalls. I am preventing meeting the criteria by making sure my consumed media is making me dumber.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:34 AM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also I absolutely absorb all that information.

How would you know if you hadn't?
posted by Celsius1414 at 11:46 AM on January 20, 2016


This keeps me up at night, both doing that thing, and worrying about how I do that thing too much. Sometimes simultaneously!
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:47 AM on January 20, 2016


My fingers have the command+L, start typing MetaFilter, press enter to autocomplete routine down-pat. I have tried go to netflix.com and ended up on MeFi.
posted by tickingclock at 11:54 AM on January 20, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's just... not that useful most of the time.
Start watching Jeopardy. =)

I got a wifi only e-ink Nook right before they stopped selling them so that I would read and not surf. It helped but did not cure. I also like the 30 day expiration on unread things on Pinboard. If it took that long for me to read it, I didn't need to read it.
posted by soelo at 11:55 AM on January 20, 2016


Did they say this when books were first available to the general public?
posted by gottabefunky at 12:01 PM on January 20, 2016


They've said it ever since Socrates said that the written word would rot your brain and corrode your soul like eating too many Twinkies.
posted by blucevalo at 12:10 PM on January 20, 2016


I'm just a digital junkie searching for enlightenment.
posted by bstreep at 12:26 PM on January 20, 2016


I charge my phone in the kitchen. All I know is, when I'm traveling and charge it in a hotel room next to the bed, I sleep a lot worse.

I also have had a non-zero number of people express incredulity about the fact that I charge my phone in the kitchen, and then they almost always follow it up with "I wish I could do that." It's a little disturbing, actually.
posted by Automocar at 12:35 PM on January 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Anyone else end up here hoping for Current TV's InfoMania?

*binges on Target Women*
posted by garlicsmack at 12:39 PM on January 20, 2016


I have to wonder if this is really a new phenomenon or if today's infomaniac is someone who in the past, would have always had the television or the radio on. We've been tethering ourselves to mass media for generations, now, and being cut off from it, for even a little bit, makes most people feel uneasy and isolated (even if they're really not that isolated).

I mean, it goes back even farther than the 20th century: cf. Thoreau mocking avid newspaper readers.
posted by zchyrs at 12:39 PM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


I mean, it goes back even farther than the 20th century: cf. Thoreau mocking avid newspaper readers.

I already basically said it but - as a kid I was constantly reading newspapers, magazines and books, getting in trouble for sneaking them in places I wasn't supposed to. Now I mostly read stuff on a screen and the only problem with that is that it has become possible to read stuff on a screen literally all day and never run out of material. Audio and video are secondary sources of information to me - too slow to convey the same text - but I'm sure other people are like this for those media.
posted by atoxyl at 12:55 PM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


I also have had a non-zero number of people express incredulity about the fact that I charge my phone in the kitchen, and then they almost always follow it up with "I wish I could do that." It's a little disturbing, actually.

Yeah, after 15 years as a small business owner (got my first cell phone on year 2) & 7 years as a salaried manager expected to pick up 24/7, I simply cannot go to sleep unless my phone is within hand's reach, although I do turn the ringer off when I turn the light off, now.
posted by Devils Rancher at 1:10 PM on January 20, 2016


Gosh all those people who can't go anywhere without a newspaper tucked under their arm... They'll pull it out at the breakfast table, in a diner at lunch time, on the train... even in the presence of a lady. And have you seen how many of those people are also wasting their time with that daily crossword puzzle!
posted by Nanukthedog at 3:33 PM on January 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


Whether or not society as a whole adjusts to new velocities of the latest horseless carriages or sheer volume of media inundation, there are going to be individuals who either can't tolerate the acceleration or aren't privileged enough to have the same access.

Dismissing concerns in jokey hurf-durf historical analogies seems myopic.
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:00 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I simplified down to just pornomania.
posted by telstar at 4:42 PM on January 20, 2016


I'm late to the thread, but this is all thoroughly eponysterical for me.

More seriously, having my device(s) by the bedside shatters my sleep into a million little glowing fragments. They sleep in the other room now. I agree that diagnosing ordinary life habits as "addictions" can be an irritating exaggeration, but always-on screens are as bad for my rest as alcohol and late-night caffeine, which makes this a moderately damaging behavior at the very least.
posted by informavore at 4:55 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Well, when you consider people have a natural desire to seek novelty with the fact things like dark patterns exist and most websites are designed to provide patterns of user interactions that are designed using fairly sophisticated psychological principles to encourage repeat clicking and novelty seeking behavior, it really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone you get people developing a compulsive habit for it. Why we're all so damn convinced the basic principles of behaviorism only apply to all the other kinds of animals, but not to the kind of animal we are, I don't think I'll ever be able to understand. It seems to be one of those blind spots that never goes away, no matter how often you shine a bright spotlight on it.
posted by saulgoodman at 7:06 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


If this kind of behavior is a problem for you (not saying it should be or is for everyone, but I've certainly found my internet use to be unhealthy at times), there are ways to reduce the infomania. I'm sure it's shown up on the green before but SelfControl, an OS X application that comprehensively blocks access to any URLs the user specifies (up to 24 hours by default, longer if you want). Whenever I find myself getting into the familiar pattern of obsessive checking with a new website I add it to my block list...though I still do compulsively type in URLs (or at least the first letters) once in a while (ok...like a few times a day).

I love Metafilter, it's changed my life for the better in so many ways, but it's definitely on the blocklist.

I also set a restriction on my iPhone to block Safari (pretty easy to defeat, I just have to navigate through the settings and enter a password, but enough of a barrier that I don't just randomly check Metafilter).

Alright. Been browsing SelfControl free for the past two hours. I've been setting Self Control for a day long block for a while but this post has inspired me to go back to the 1 month block. See you in February.
posted by soy bean at 7:57 PM on January 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


I leave my phone in the living room, never take into my bedroom or bathroom. This is especially after the phone came on in the night, the light woke me up and the camera was on, and click, it took a picture. It only rings, for calls and makes a text noise, I get few texts, less than 3-4 per week. No other notifications, location turned off, nothing synched. I read all I want to for now, a lot. At least I don't work on a computer.
posted by Oyéah at 8:17 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I read the World Book straight off the shelf when I was a kid. I am going to die trying to drink from the firehose of Internet information.

I could have written this comment exactly, even the detail of the World Book encyclopedias, Year Books and Childcraft companion set (a late 60s edition which had dark green and off-white spines).
posted by chimaera at 8:40 PM on January 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


I had this malaise pretty bad but I managed to break out (being at risk of failing out of grad school will do that to ya). It was more of an avoidant, procrastinatory thing at that time. When I was younger I would read the newspaper cover to cover (back when the SF Chronicle was not a shadow of its former self) though. These days I'm able to pick out only the most interesting articles to read, and check in on my various internet scenes every few days.
posted by Standard Orange at 1:43 AM on January 21, 2016


We've noticed this behaviour in ourselves because we noticed it with the teenager first. Now the rule is that phones and tablets go on the charger in the study, with no media devices in bedrooms at night. My kid was a voracious reader before school demanded smart devices, and we're retraining him to use books for both pleasure and research.
posted by SecretAgentSockpuppet at 6:52 AM on January 22, 2016


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