PopeWatch 2005 and the perils of infovorousness

(infovority? infovoritude? infovorism?)

So here I am, 11.15 on a Friday night, after a busy day of emergency dental treatment*, sunshine, conversation and excellent dinner**, relentlessly refreshing CNN and BBC News, waiting for news that a man whom I know almost nothing about and whose existence barely affects me has either kicked the bucket or lived through the night. It's an odd sensation: I don't care about the content of the news -- the announcement itself is already written, and has been written for years, and the fact is obvious. I don't care about the timing of the news, either: whether he dies now or twelve hours from now is irrelevant to me. I care about the existence of the news: the information does not yet exist, but soon it will, and I desperately want to have it as soon as humanly possible.

This sort of aimless, insatiable desire for information for its own sake has been a developing characteristic of mine for a while. It's usually useful -- the majority of the skills I use in my job are self-taught -- but sometimes self defeating, as I would much rather gather new information than apply what I have already learned.

I once read (but can no longer locate the article) that email can reduce productivity at work because people check their email too often, instead of doing real work. The reason for this was that receiving new information produces a chemical response in the brain, rewarding us with a good feeling for no effort. Like the good monkeys we are, we know the button makes us feel good, so we click it mindlessly, endlessly, hoping to get the free pleasure as fast as possible.

Is this what I'm doing when I endlessly look for news I don't care about? It certainly seems that way. Maybe I need to be more selective about what I read, or possibly just more efficient in receiving it: Planet Seldo certainly helps a lot -- I read it instead of those 25 sites, which is a signficant time saver. But even then, I refresh it constantly and check it several times an hour.

Maybe I should just go to bed :-)

* I may not like all welfare, but I'm quite fond of the NHS, or possibly just first-world medicine. It still seems sort of magical to me that you can book an appointment for a dentist and be seen the same day.

** If I go to Bistro 1 any more often they are going to start reserving my table.