I'm a fairly gangly person so I can't say diets have ever been a big part of my life. I don't think it's too controversial a statement to say that our diets are overall getting worse. It's a little staggering to consider that you are now more likely to die from over-eating than starvation. The reason for this is plain and boring: we used to not have access to enough food so we died and now we have access to too much so we die.
So although food diets are becoming worse, the thing that's becoming worse at an even faster pace is our information diet and for very similar reasons. We used to have not enough access to information so we weren't informed and now we have access to too much information and we're not informed.
Maybe I'm oversimplifying. After all, the information problem is more that there's so much of it out there, we don't know what's true or not anymore. Taking the time to sift though it all to is basically impossible so we tend to get our information from the same places that already line up with what we already believe in. The result is a lack is a lack of diversity in your information diet. But that's the same thing as having a bad food diet, isn't it? If you all do is eat delicious steaks you certainly won't be lacking in protein but if you don't eat an orange soon, you're gonna miss out on that Vitamin C. What I'm saying is if you don't occasionally get some right-wing information in your liberal diet you're going to end up with informational scurvy.
So maybe the analogy doesn't doesn't hold up to scrutiny but now that I'm grooving on this train of thought, I think we would all benefit from making the link between our information diet and our food diet much more direct in our heads. For example, all those clickbait article titles we see popping out on our Facebook like “Exposed: Expert Psychologist diagnoses Donald Trump with syphilis” are the equivalent of junk food. Feels good to consume it in the moment but definitely something we should feel slightly ashamed for indulging.
I think what I'm trying to get at is that if we managed to break down our nutritional needs into handy categories - you need this much Vitamin D, this much fat, this much sodium -surely we can break down our information diets along similar lines. An information food pyramid if you will.
I reckon the baseline of a healthy information diet should be true facts. It's like water, you need to a constant intake of true facts to keep going and stay healthy. Nobody would disagree with the idea that it is a good idea to seek out true facts just like nobody would say that regularly drinking water is a bad idea. This isn't really part of the pyramid and neither is water.
At the bottom of the food pyramid we have vegetables, salads and fruit. The informational equivalent of this would be current events. You should have 5-7 fruit and veg a day and reading about 5-7 to current events a day seems like a pretty reasonable number. If that sounds like a lot, just consider that reading a news article takes about the same amount of time as eating a banana and if you wanted to, you could easily eat 5-7 bananas in a day.
Next on the food pyramid you have starch – bread, rice, protatoes, pasta. I think the information pyramid equivalent would be pop culture knowledge. The recommend amount is 3-5 a day for starch. I'm not sure exactly how to translate that into how much pop culture information you should take in so the analogy is admittedly starting to break down a tad but I think we can all see my overall point. Although being up to date on current events is the most important, being up to date with TV, movies and music makes it easier to connect with people and and we tend to share these things with our friends – just like we “break bread” with our friends, OK, this analogy is back on track.
After that you have dairy – milk, yoghurt and cheese. I would say we should put academic information here: history, literature, classical drama, science. Having solid base of knowledge in an academic subject is good for your brain but we do tend to over-emphasise its importance – just like we tend to over-emphasise how much calcium we need in our diets.
The more I go up the pyramid, the more tenuous this whole idea is becoming to me but I'm going to see it through.
Then we have proteins – meat, poultry, fish, eggs and nuts. The equivalent here would be all hobby-related knowledge. So if you're really into carpentry, definitely dedicate some time to finding out more about it but just bear in mind that if that's all you do, it's going to have an impact on how people perceive you. You can tell at a distance the kinds of people who spend too much time focusing on their hobbies just like you can tell from a distance the kinds of people who put too much emphasis on eating their proteins – and neither are the kinds of people you want to hang out with.
The penultimate level of the food pyramid are fats, spreads and oils. This is where I would place opinions. By itself, fat and oil are be bad for you but it's fine to have them if they are supplemented by more substantial foods like vegetables, starch, dairy and meats. And the same goes for opinions. Having an opinion is fine so long as it is backed up by the more substantial information you have consumed in the other sections of the information pyramid. An opinion on its own, without any accompanying information, is bad for you and bad for everyone.
Finally, at the top of the pyramid, there is junk food – foods high in fat, sugar and salt. This is where I would place bullshit. Bullshit can take many forms – fake news, frivolous cat videos, internet memes. Occasionally consuming bullshit is not unhealthy. It is fun to indulge in bullshit and sometimes you just won't have the energy to consume something more informationally nutritious. Just remember that it is bullshit, enjoy it for what it is in the moment and then walk away.
This short essay, for example, is absolute bullshit. See? I've already put the theory into practice.