In the book “Enough: Breaking Free from the World of More” published in 2008, Naish talks about televisions not SmartTVs, and mobile phones, not Smartphones. He talks about having 123 TV channels, which is nothing compares to the 37 million and counting YouTube channels in 2021,* and that’s not to mention TikTok. While the statistics and examples in Enough are dated, takeaways are easy to apply today. Our species has survived and thrived because of our desire to learn; however, with easy and endless access to information, we must choose which information to seek and when to say enough to information.
Let us say I want to bake some brownies. I have the time, basic ingredients, I just need a recipe. I choose a search engine and search. I get about 18 million results on google, but hopefully I choose a decent option right off the bat. I then scroll past the story which the blogger felt was necessary to include. I am there for the recipe, not the narrative about how grandma used to make the best brownies, full of eggs, but since becoming a vegan the blogger needed to recreate the perfect recipe. Her multiple attempts led to a plethora of brownies filling her house, and eventually the perfect brownie, the recipe which will be our reward if we can finally get there, after reading her take on the complete agricultural history of each ingredient. Usually there is a “jump to the recipe” button near the top, causing me to bypass the intriguing story, and leaving me with enough time to make brownies. But, when I am not looking for a recipe, Facebook, knowing I like baking, shows me endless videos of people producing all sorts of foods, most of which I’ll never make. Perhaps I’m not actually interested in the outcome, or else I am to busy, absorbing this information to actually do anything about it.
John Naish quotes a survey completed by the Henley Centre where 70% of people said they could never have too much information, yet over 50% recognised they had more information than they could deal with (Naish, 16). It is easy, and easily rewarding to consume information. Gaining information is both satisfying and comforting. The more we intake information, the less time we have to use the information productively. Not only does interacting with info take time, it also requires energy, hard work and delayed outcomes. In three minutes I can watch in a video someone decorate 48 cupcakes using six unique methods. Were I to try to create the same product, it would take me hours. Not having the time or energy, I instead watch endless videos. Such video and infotainment are “a pleasurable yet habit-forming, mind-altering and potentially depressing substance.” It is cheap and overly abundant, Naish says, “It’s just like alcohol” (Naish, 38). The difference is, we don’t get hangovers, and most people haven’t learned to set boundaries around our behaviour. While binging on information can be enjoyable, it is critical that we have limits, that we resist forming unhealthy information indulging habits. These habits require us to decide which information we want in our lives, which information will, in fact, be useful. We naturally acquire information. As Naish puts it, “We are so wired to gather information that often we no longer do anything with it” (Naish, 26). Information overload leaves ideas hardly comprehended, and us ever more confused. Rather than pausing, we turn instead, looking for more information. Is this like trying to cure a hangover with a shot of whiskey? When more information leaves us more confused, perhaps it is time to say enough.
Constant information can also lead to stress. Reading the covid updates over and again each day can set our hearts pounding, and have our eyes peeled wide, alert, waiting to respond to this treat. According to Naish, “Some psychologists believe the effect [of watching news] is so strong that we should limit our news-watching to only 30 minutes a day — or risk developing anxiety-related depression” (Naish, 17). No matter the distance of the danger, watching news can have us believing the hazard is near. Living under constant threat is exhausting, and at some point it is easier to give in to depression. There is a very real threat that the information we take in will cause us harm. We must say enough information before it steals our attention from the here and now, before it robs us of our ability to care for those nearest to us. Furthermore, the effects reach broader. Baroness Susan Greenfield worries about the use of screens by children. She fears they will grow up to be “a nation of gullible Googlers who won’t even know how to vote responsibly” (Naish, 40). Yikes! 13 years later, is this where we’ve ended up? Our information comes prepackaged, often prescribed by algorithms feeding our biases, or advertisements creating desires within us. When it comes to voting, finding accurate information is critical. Sorting through the information from various sources is incredibly difficult.
While the information on the internet can be particularly helpful, when, for example, I need a recipe, it is littered with advertising and clickbait. We are easily distracted from our initial purpose. While it is easy to be wary of advertisements which are designed to “catch your attention and make you dissatisfied with the life that you already have” (Naish, 44), they are impossible to avoid. We stare at ads, eager to skip them, unless they are exceptionally well crafted, but perhaps the content we seek is just as quick to leave us unsatisfied, anxious, wanting or depressed. We must control our content input and choose, at times, to disconnect.
Among the advice Naish give to disconnect is the following. To begin with, we can budget our time, set limits to our consumption and stick to them. Doing is easier if we choose to “be happy about the fact that [we] are deliberately choosing to miss things, because it means that [we] have a life” (Naish, 45). Choosing to focus on the positives of limiting our information consumption enables us to abstain joyfully and purposely. This attitude makes it easier to say enough to information. It requires us, however, to have a life. As we change our habits, it is beneficial to choose a new (or neglected) hobby or two. We can also spend the time getting to know our neighbours, a practice Naish promises “extends [our] sense of home security” (Naish, 46). Creating and fostering relationships, and learning from those near us helps us engage in local, tangible events. This interaction is a healthy alternative to constant information consumption. It provides a context information we do consume and gives us a rewarding activity. We can choose to seek information from those around us. This can be just as satisfying.
Information is ever more abundant. We have far more information than we can ever use. This information overload causes stress, and often influences us to make worse decisions. Even when we intentionally seek information, we are bombarded by distractions and advertisements. Escaping from information overload is possible, but requires intentional choice. We must curtail our natural information seeking behaviour to pursue only that information which will benefit us. This can be accomplished as we set personal limits, engage in offline hobbies and get to know our neighbours.
*This was the best number I could find, but I have no idea if it is accurate. The website
contradicted itself. https://www.tubics.com/blog/number-of-youtube-channels/
**Naish, John. Enough : Breaking Free from the World of More. London, Hachette Livre, 2008.