Mental Junk Food

by Peter Saint-Andre


These days every article, video, podcast, or tweet needs to scream for your attention. Even worse, much of what you're shown online is determined by algorithms that put a premium on popularity, which is itself driven by the all-too-human feelings of greed for sensation and fear of disaster. In this brave new world of ours, news is literally a form of mental junk food.

One solution, of course, is to quit consuming the news. However, despite the fact that I've been on a low-information diet for many years and I endeavor to read not the times but the eternities, I recognize that it's not so easy for everyone to break the habit of believing that recently manufactured information is more important than agelessly organic wisdom.

Another solution might to heighten your awareness of what you're consuming. Just as nutrition labels have nudged many people toward better eating habits, perhaps we need nutrition labels for online content. Unfortunately, there are billions of web pages and thousands of news websites, so we can't hand-curate all that content. Paradoxically, we need computers to save us from the computers.

Enter Otherweb, a different sort of news service that gives you objective summaries of the latest news (without ads), enables you to set minimum quality levels, and even shows its work by providing helpful nutrition labels. If you want to learn what's new without that sugar high of mental overstimulation, I highly recommend giving Otherweb a try (and, if you're so inclined, providing feedback at Product Hunt). Your mind will thank you.

[Full disclosure: I'm an advisor to Otherweb because I strongly agree with its mission of fixing the world's information ecosystem.]

(Cross-posted at


Peter Saint-Andre > Journal