I’ve come to think of how I consume information in the same way that I get concerned sometimes about my sodium intake. Overall my levels might get a little high sometimes but I’m probably doing more harm to myself worrying about it than anything else. Just like I would be worried about the health of my heart when it comes to how much sodium I consume, I worry my brain is going to explode with all of the news feeds, blogs, and articles I read and all of the podcasts I listen to. Of course I don’t mean that I actually worry about it literally exploding. But I do sometimes wonder if there are in fact any physiological effects to the brain that can be caused by over-stimulating it.
I’m not referring to multi-tasking. Some people swear they can exceed at it while some studies say that they can’t. I don’t try it that much aside from playing music in the background while reading or writing. I indulge my habits in rapid succession. Nearly every day I have RSS feeds from news sources and blogs fed into my Kindle, which I read mostly at work. I get through each piece as fast as I can. When I’m done, which is usually about ten minutes into my lunch break, I switch over to that week’s issue of The New Yorker. As it is I downloaded this week’s issue yesterday morning before I left for work, and as I write this I only have one article and the short story left.
Even in writing this article I had to stop to go to the bathroom, so I took my Kindle in with me. I finished an article on the current relations between the U.S. and Iran. Having gone through that article so quickly without taking notes I can’t say that I remember many names or other details, but I got the general gist of the article that relations between the two countries are better than they have in the past. The article placed special emphasis on Iran’s possible nuclear program and how that may affect those relations. So while I can’t get down every fact I can get the general idea and now where to go if in the future I do need those details.
Also in the morning I download podcasts for the day, including short newscasts for the drive to work. Every chance that I get that listening to podcasts isn’t in the way of something else I’m trying to catch up. I think that by listening to people relay information I’m able to take a bit more in than reading a bunch of articles at once. By listening to people I’m catching their emotion as they’re saying something, which makes that information stick. I’ve said the same for poetry. By giving a piece of writing that fuller experience I’m able to comprehend it more.
Maybe I’m short-changing myself by how much I retain. After all, I’m no idiot, and I wouldn’t do all of this if I didn’t think I was getting enough out of it. When I read a news story that references events from two days prior I’ll usually remember what I read before. I get worried sometimes because cramming has always had a bad reputation. It could be that I’m able to take in all of this extra information because I’m not stressing over deadlines. Or I could just be super-intelligent and I just don’t know it. I think I’ll go with that one.