information diets

Manila, 3 August—How does the rain make you feel? It’s been raining nonstop for days, and I’ve been feeling a bit… slowed down by it. It’s been ten years since the 2009 Ondoy floods, which for me was a truly pivotal moment, one that set the new harsh rules for city living moving forward: One, that the city is always just a few hours of rain away from chaos, and two, urban survival is also about being buoyant and waterproof as it is about being street-smart and financially sound. In other words: Mahal at mahirap at mabaha.

But more than hampering mobility, the rains also have this slowdown effect mentally. It’s been a packed week, post-El Nido field work, and I’m thankful for the respite of this rainy weekend: It means I could slow down guiltlessly.

Slow down and guilt all too often come hand in hand for me, and I know they shouldn’t. I mean, I’ve been burnt out before; by now I should know how important it is to slow down. Lately I’ve been starkly reminded of how finite my energy and attention resources actually are. It used to be that I could go on and on and subsist on a few hours of sleep; what a child I’d been, so cruel to my body, always spreading myself thin and so needlessly too.

Anyway, we’re working on remedying that. On the physical front, we’re getting off the proverbial couch to live a relatively more active lifestyle, and we’re trying to watch what we eat in a manner that goes beyond the “I watch, I eat” tongue-in-cheek logic. Maybe it’s the mid-30s; maybe it’s a mid-life crisis if we project to live only to about 70-ish.

On the mental front, I’ve been reading up on a different kind of diet—an information diet. This means being conscious about the information we consume and engage with. In 2009, during the floods, there was something else happening for me: I became much more entrenched in my social networks. At the time, Twitter was having its heyday as the most useful post-flood social media network, and that sealed my fate for me. The moment we started using it as news lead generator, I knew I was done for.

Ten years later, I’m still undoing the damage of this ultra-connected, always on lifestyle that has been both exciting and exhausting. On the one hand, imagine having all this knowledge from all parts of the world at all times, right? We could be at our most informed, most learned, because of all this information so readily available at our fingertips.

But we are not. Because on the other hand, we are at all times parrying distracting notifications. While it is a different kind of flood, information flood is paralyzing and exhausting on its own.

More than access to excess levels of information, I need access to curated, processed information: What does this all mean? What’s important and what’s just drivel? What important things do we have to dig out of the rubble, covered-up by orchestrated efforts at obfuscating the truth or some other disingenuous attempts at gaming algorithm systems that issue rewards based on metrics that can be manipulated?

So yeah, that’s very much a work in progress. I’m trying this thing where I try not to join every Rage Twitter Bandwagon (lol) by asking myself, Will people still be angry at this in 48 hours? Because my rage, even when it abounds, is limited by my flagging energy levels. I no longer have the luxury of being constantly angry at things on the Internet, thanks to being constantly angry at things on the Internet for the last ten years.

Anyway. Now that I have permitted myself to be angry less often, I now have time to do other things, like listen to podcasts and come to the page at least once a week in the form of this letter.

Speaking of podcasts, here’s a good one on managing digital distraction c/o Fast Company’s Secrets of the Most Productive People on Spotify. Distilling some tips below re: how to cut down on your digital diet without giving up your devices:

  1. Schedule your internet and email use.

  2. Rank your emails/notifications in terms of urgency and importance.

  3. Set clear online hours for yourself. Just because you have your devices with you all the time, doesn’t mean you should use them all the time.

If you’re more into reading stuff, James Clear has a fantastic selection of Minimalism readings on his website here.

How do you manage your digital distractedness?

Share your hacks please! :)

Have a happy rainy weekend,


PS: I have a playlist I listen to when I have to write while angry LOL. It has a lot of Fall Out Boy. If it helps.