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Our society has become addicted to snacking:

  • We snack with information.
  • We snack with food.
  • We snack with our interactions with others.
  • We snack with our work.

By snacking here, I’m referring to us just getting a taste of something. Typically this taste – or snack – is just enough for us to feel like we’ve done “something” but that something is rarely enough.

We Snack with Information

How we do this

We skim and get the general idea of information rather than absorbing and understanding it.

An example of how we snack with information

Let’s say you see a tweet on Twitter that says, “Facebook demographics changing – largest growth in 35-50 age group,” along with a link.

The serious snacker would see that tweet and file the summary per the subject away in their head for the short-term.

The middle-of-the-road snacker would click on the link, skim the article and probably not end up with any bigger of a takeaway than what they learned from the title itself.

Why do we snack with information?

We’re becoming avid surface absorbers of trivial information.  I think many of us feel that knowing all these bits of information must do something for us.

I’ve also noticed that people tend to be more interested in information that somehow backs up who they are and their own opinions even if it adds no real value to them to possess this knowledge.

I hazard a guess that if the above tweet and information were real, the people most likely to retweet (share) the information with others would be:

  • Those that work in social media (relevant to their occupation)
  • Those that use Facebook (since it is related to something they personally use)
  • Those that fall into the 35-50 age group (since they belong to that age group)

When snacking with information becomes a problem

There are 4 times when snacking with information becomes a problem:

  1. When we snack on too much information that has no relevance to us.
  2. When we snack on so much information, our ability to filter out what is important – what we should know and be absorbing – becomes diminished.
  3. When we pass along information snackage to others.
  4. When we actually do come across information that is relevant to us and we choose to snack rather than to absorb and understand.

It is a really vicious cycle for many people: we don’t filter the information we take in to determine what is important or isn’t, we scan rather than read those things that could impact us, we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about what we discover, we don’t take action on what we learn and then we feel the need to share this snackage with others.

What should we be doing?

I agree that snacking on some kinds of information is a good thing for some people. Information has become entertainment as well. I don’t think that we need to get rid of information snacking entirely.

But I do think many people need to start actively applying filters to information. Filters so that we can more easily recognize when we come across information that is relevant and/or can improve our lives and our businesses.

Let me share an example of this from one of my blogs

I wrote a post last year on how to target Gmail in Google Adwords. This post contained information being sold by others. It is solid content. For those of you that have a business, being able to get highly responsive web site visitors for low acquisition costs should be a priority.  It really should be a no brainer to try it – especially if you are already using Google Adwords for advertising.

The post was one of the lowest read and recirculated ones on that site. I’m not really surprised about that because it is geared to a more limited audience than many of the other posts.

I decided to conduct a little survey. I went to people I knew who visit that blog (primarily those who have tweeted posts or who are subscribers) and asked if they had read the post until I got to 10.

I asked those 10 people if they could answer 3 questions:

  1. Do they use Google Adwords? 6 of 10 said they do now and 2 said they have.
  2. Do they need more business? All said yes.
  3. Have they tried the Gmail targeting I described before or since reading the post? All said no.

Note: This isn’t to point fingers at any one individual or group of individuals. It’s simple to illustrate how our filtering can often mean we miss out on things that can provide value.

I’m not suggesting that the post described the Holy Grail of marketing. But what I am suggesting that all of this information snacking we do in the end will do very little for us if we don’t start to:

  1. Filter out those things relevant to us,
  2. Understand, rather than surface absorb information and
  3. Take action.

What do you think? Do you believe information snacking is a problem? Do you do it?

Photograph by Incase Designs

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