I was listening to the radio the other day when a philosopher starting talking about ‘infobesity’. The theory is that we are gorging ourselves indiscriminately on information that may or may not have value or accuracy – fast food for our brains. He went on to talk about how we often develop online personas that don’t accurately reflect the richness of who we are but rather highlight our few high priority causes. I had a think about my online presence and realised that it’s all about me being a naturopath-lefty-chicken tragic-mother. I’m ok with all these things but surely there’s more to me than that.
The other aspect of this ‘infobesity’ is that we are often fed information that is in alignment with our views and previous searches. We sign up to newsletters for products, services and personalities we can identify with or aspire to. We narrow our own experience by filtering out ideas that are foreign to us or that we don’t agree with. That isn’t a bad thing altogether – I certainly don’t want McDonalds in my inbox but there is also the healthy notion that it’s good to keep your mind open to things you don’t understand or particularly like.
When I looked at the resources I use most frequently for health information I felt reassured that my sources were reputable, substantiated and consistent. It was however, glaringly obvious, that I am drawing from a select pool that is usually only available via subscription or to verified professionals. A large portion of the readily available information is biased at best and false at worst. Without some background knowledge it’s hard to discriminate between the worthwhile and the valueless.
I am all for people being informed especially when it relates to health matters. I love it when people come to see me armed with knowledge and ideas about their health concerns. What I find challenging is that this information can sometimes seem very useful when in fact it’s not substantiated in any way or makes crazy promises about wonder cures. Anyone can make these kind of claims – to cure cancers, help you chose the sex of your baby, cure your chronic disease in three easy steps, radical weight loss – but really this is just nonsense and creates false hope and unrealistic expectations. I have seen some amazing results in my work but these come about through healthy changes to diet and lifestyle factors and commitment to a treatment plan that is based in evidence and experience.
I believe that it’s crucially important to understand your own health and how your body works for you. The internet is a fantastic starting point but nothing can replace speaking with someone who knows you and your circumstances and who also has the professional qualifications to back up their suggestions for treatment.