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Slow Information Movement

A strange thing happened after the oral surgery.  Though I’ve never really liked oranges or orange juice or anything orange-y, I started craving clementines.  And not just craving clementines–they were the only thing I would eat beyond oatmeal.  In one week, we went through three crates of clementines.

An aside: my gum graft comes from donated tissue (imagine my brother saying in the creepiest voice possible over the telephone immediately following surgery: “Missy, you gots yourself a nice pair of corpse gums”) and I’m wondering if my donor loved clementines.  It’s really the only explanation I have for this all-out, crazy-ass craving.  I literally can’t go more than a few hours without one.

The point–if you sit on your ass and eat 15+ clementines every day for five days running, you will put on weight.  Which isn’t really a surprising discovery though it is a sad one because I’ve been subscribing to this idea that Jendeis taught me which essentially boils down your diet to only eating foods your great-grandmother would recognize.  No chemicals, no strange food substitutes, no added vitamins.  Just straightforward butter and eggs and milk and fruit and vegetables.    It just feels like if you’re giving up Cheez-its, you should get rewarded and not a two pound weight gain even if you replace those Cheez-its with 75 clementines.

The idea of the great-grandmother diet is just one of the 64 thoughts put out by food writer, Michael Pollan.  Yes, I still have to actually read the whole book rather than letting my sister-cousin and Jendeis summarize his books for me.

Josh had a post recently about feeling blah, and the comment I left after reading his words touches on ideas coming out of the slow food movement.

I think it’s so easy to get caught up in what feels like movement–the constant Twitter stream, the email inbox that fills and empties, the mundane tasks that repeat each day–that when we get a breathing space (for instance, when we don’t have weekend plans and nothing is there to occupy us), we both notice that things have calmed and humans don’t love stagnation AND we realize that all that movement we thought was happening isn’t really happening at all. That we’ve been stagnant all along and just thought we were running a marathon.

Honestly, just like the slow food movement has brought back a different energy to eating, I think we need to create a slow information movement that brings back a different energy to taking in news and thoughts.

Within the slow food movement, the idea isn’t to give up all food to get rid of the negative effects of fast food–that would be crazy.  It’s to slow things down.  Think about where your food comes from.  Eat local.  Vary the flavours.  Cook together.  Sit down to eat it.  Elevate food to something to look forward to during the day rather than something shoved into the minutes between something else.  You know, in the same way we constantly check our blackberries or leave email up all day rather than sitting down and giving ourselves an uninterrupted hour to read blogs and write a post.

I’m not anti-Twitter or anti-email.  I don’t believe in unplugging just for unplugging sake.  I’m not impressed when people make declarations that they didn’t check email for three days just to prove a point.  I mean, no one applauds when I admit that sometimes I don’t get the mail for a week at a time (come on, who the hell wants to look at bills?).

Just as the answer to the problems with fast food (too much fat and calories; people not socializing while they eat; no clue what is being put in your body or how it came to be) is not to cut out all food, the answer to the problems of feeling blah in the face of the Twitter race for followers, the blog stat checking, the comment counting, the email burnout is not to cut out technology, but to take in information better.

To not spend the entire night aimlessly surfing the Web, but to come to the computer with a to-do list and check off the tasks.  To give yourself uninterrupted time to read or write.  To sort your emails into answer immediately or get-to-soon and not feel guilty if the get-to-soons don’t get an answer for a few days because non-online life has to happen too.

A few years ago, before the blog was even born, Josh came home from work one day and I told him that I had been researching the concept of sustainability and I wanted to introduce it to all facets of our life.  Which meant making the clothes I could make instead of always buying them.  Which meant taking the twins to the farm and learning where our food comes from and making everything we can from scratch instead of buying it made.  It meant recycling and reusing toys and moderation and library books and trading and borrowing.  And for the most part, we have lived this idea of sustainability for years now from recycled garbage art projects to homemade challah on Friday nights.

The place where we haven’t considered sustainability is in our information intake.  We take it more information, add more ways to take in information, and do it in a way that is not sustainable in the long run unless we also take burnout into consideration.

I love my blackberry, but it has no place coming out of the holster when I’m with people (nor does yours, Josh, achem).  I love my blog, but I need to pace myself with projects and maintenance.  I love to read blogs, but I need to make them their own reading period, just as I do books, rather than shove a post into my eyes (oooh, that sounded painful) in between putting the pot on the stove and the water boiling.

It’s not about not partaking in an ongoing ride on the information super highway.  But it is about slowing down the vehicle.  Not driving at 75 mph all the freakin’ time.  You might not be the winner with all the information in your back seat, you may not be the first person to see the story break on Twitter, you may not get to that steaming pile of emails until tomorrow–but there’s a lot of life to also live offline.

Like all things in life, it’s a balance.  And I am aware that this sounds funny coming from someone who also preaches “comment more!” and “post more!”  But I do think it’s possible to live a full off-line life and a full online life and find the balance that doesn’t make you feel those blahs when you finally unplug for a few hours as we all need to do in order to come to the Web with fresh eyes.


1 Lavender Luz { 01.25.10 at 3:41 pm }

G*d, you’re smart.

I really needed this today.

Now I know the “what to do.” I’m going to figure out the “how.”

Sometimes it does feel like I’m running a marathon on a treadmill.

2 Ann Z { 01.25.10 at 4:04 pm }

I just got Michael Pollan’s book, too, which I’ve found to be pretty inspiring so far. Sad to hear that a diet of all clementines isn’t really a good one for weight loss (I’ve always been able to eat through a whole box in one sitting).

I like your extension of the analogy of slow foods to online life. This post has really come at the right time for me – I know I’ve fallen in to the randomly surfing, clicking on links and only partly reading trap, and it has really had a negative effect on my writing and my commenting. This has really inspired me to think more about how I’ll find that balance. I find that when I have had a break from online – whether an intentional break or not – I start to feel a little more grounded and less harried and more focused. I’ve just started clearing out my reader, as well. I’ve decided that if I just click on links in order to clear out my reader, rather than because I actually want to read the posts, then it doesn’t need to be adding to the stress of too many unread posts. I think I need to take to heart that I also don’t have to be the one to break the stories on Twitter or on my blog, I can step away from things, and it won’t hurt if I come across a new study or news item a few days late.

3 Beth { 01.25.10 at 4:34 pm }

Bless You!

You have found the words I’ve been searching for in my attempted life-decluttering (that I have not blogged about because I have been unable to find the words, and on and on the cycle goes). Less is more, and only so many minutes/hours in the day, and blah blah blah blah.

And, would you be ashamed of me if I told you that I’ve ~never~ had a clementine? Cuz I’m a little ashamed to admit it…

4 a { 01.25.10 at 4:37 pm }

Well, re: the grandmother’s diet…you also have to be as active as your grandmother. Which probably means little driving, or sitting down at the computer, or other lethargic “activities.”

This post is what I’ve always wondered about you – how do you balance your family life with all the other things you do? I’m a fast reader, and I can hardly keep up. And I don’t read or write or organize half as much as you. I probably sleep more, though…

5 Jen { 01.25.10 at 5:04 pm }

You are right M. I am constantly on the computer checking FB, blogs, and surfing. Since I work exclusively at home from my computer it seems like I drag out my work time instead of delineating time for work and another for play. At times my husband just looks at me like I am crazy. I need to spend more time disconnected. 🙂

6 N { 01.25.10 at 5:07 pm }

Yes. A million times yes. Even as I have trouble implementing a lot of it, though. But I still believe it’s true.

(though somehow I suspect that this is not the time to give up surfing the internet in the middle of the night…)

7 Kristin { 01.25.10 at 5:20 pm }

Preach on oh brilliant one!

8 annacyclopedia { 01.25.10 at 6:01 pm }

As usual, prescient one, you manage to perfectly say what I just started thinking about. I’ve been pondering this, too, and like Lori, need to figure out the “how” – it is already clear that I’d like to feel less scattered in my energies that I bring to all parts of my life, and I just need to find my way to being more present with everything I am doing. And part of that means doing less – just like sustainability means using less. Less, but not nothing.

Thanks, as always, for your excellent thoughts.

9 Hope in Briarrose { 01.25.10 at 6:04 pm }

LOL, sorry I can’t help but laugh about your corpse gums and your newly fond likeness of the clementine.

I love the name clementine.

10 HereWeGoAJen { 01.25.10 at 8:11 pm }

I’ve been working on that balance myself lately.

Also, I’ve been eating loads of clementines too. I have two big crates of them in the fridge right now. I ate four since I got home from the store this afternoon.

11 JJ { 01.25.10 at 8:24 pm }

I just need someone else to peel the clementines for me–I have a dislike of peeling citrus fruits 🙂

It is definitely nice to unplug and go technology free–it makes me appreciate coming back to it so much more!

12 Jendeis { 01.25.10 at 9:57 pm }

It’s interesting how the idea of sustainability soon blends into all aspects of life. It is indeed refreshing to find this balance.

As to craving clementines, perhaps it’s like what they say about cravings during pregnancy, that your body is craving some nutrient that’s available in that food. In her book Real Food, Nina Planck writes about a nutrition study where small kids were put in front of tables of different kinds of food and were allowed to pick whatever they wanted. One boy, ate nothing but cod liver oil (I think it was) for several meals. It turned out that the boy was experiencing a Vitamin D deficiency and his body was correcting it. Cool, huh?

13 lily ashley { 01.25.10 at 10:14 pm }

oooh clementines sound good!!!!
you are right, I have been thinking about this for 2 weeks, balancing the off line life with the blogs/emails/and everything internet-ish lol

oh before I forget, i can go all week without checking the mail also, lol
ICLW hugs!!

14 edenland { 01.25.10 at 11:07 pm }


I live in avery sustainable, eco-friendly kind of town. There are chains of towns, actually, all linked together. There is this thing called “the slow food movement.” Which is *exactly* what you just described. Local cafes and food places can get affiliated with it. Everybody’s in such a darn hurry, man.

You are so intwined with Australia this week, Mel!!!


15 The Steadfast Warrior { 01.25.10 at 11:42 pm }

I think I’ve been subconsciously starting to do this. I find that I’m breaking up my time and devoting myself to “tasks”- it’s the only way I get things done and still feel like I’m okay. Right now, I have so little to give and it seemss to go in three million directions. Slowing down is the only way I can cope with the overload.

Surprisingly, I’m finding that I actually have MORE time to do the things I need and want to. Funny that, huh? 😉

Thanks Mel, for your always poignant and bang-on insight.

16 lynn @ human, being { 01.26.10 at 12:48 am }

I think it’s also about choosing not to partake. Just as you’re not eating Cheetos, you can culture a “slow information” movement by only consuming what truly feeds you information-wise. That means reading the blogs you love, and quickly unsubscribing when you’re not getting anything out of one (my clue: a bunch of unread posts in my reader), and unsubscribing from emails, discontinuing newspapers. There is only so much information the human brain can absorb.

It’s all about mindfulness.

17 Battynurse { 01.26.10 at 2:13 am }

This makes so much sense. I want so much to keep up with all my blog friends and what’s going on but I find myself also sacrificing stuff. I started using a reader maybe a year or so ago and have been steadily increasing the number of blogs I read which is great but I’ve noticed other areas of my life taking a hit time wise. I have had significantly less time to read for fun which is sort of depressing me. I miss books.
As far as the clementines thing? My theory is that you were lacking in something nutritionally. Could have been the vitamin C which helps with wound healing or it could have been potassium. Like I said though, just a theory.

18 coffeegrl { 01.26.10 at 6:52 am }

Oh I LOVE this. I had a wonderful mentor in this regard. David Levy, was (is) a faculty member at the University of Washington when I was in the MLIS program there. He had started a group called “Information and Quality of Life.” I was fascinated by the concept. It was a group open to all interested parties (undergrads, grad students and and faculty members all together). We’d gather and do a silent meditation for the first 15 minutes of the meeting. After that, we’d discuss a book about “slow living” such as “Full Catastrophe Living” by Jon Kabat-Zinn or “Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal and Delight in our Busy Lives” by Wayne Muller. Anyway, Levy is interested in how we find balance in our lives – keeping technology and information but maintaining a sense of peace and sanctuary and avoiding overload. It’s heady stuff when you really think about it. For more about him and his ideas, there’s a kind of summary here http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/pacificnw/2004/1128/cover.html

19 Baby Smiling In Back Seat { 01.26.10 at 8:43 am }

75 clementines = 2625 calories.
Equivalent to 472 Cheez Its, or less than one big box.

20 loribeth { 01.26.10 at 8:54 am }

You’re so wise, Mel. The Internet has been a blessing in my life in many ways, but there are many nights when I sit down just to check “a few things” & before I know it it’s almost bedtime & where has the evening gone? One reason why I resisted joining Facebook for so long was that I KNEW it would be a time sucker, & I absolutely did NOT need one more reason to be spending more time online. And yet, now I’m there too…!

I’ve gradually gone from reading lots of books to reading lots of magazines to struggling to finish the daily papers, while unread books & magazines pile up around me. I don’t watch a lot of TV anymore either, so I’m obviously spending my time other ways, & it’s obviously online. When I do sit down with a book, I find my attention often wanders. The only time it seems I can really settle in & devour a good book the way I once did is when I’m on vacation at my parents, away from my daily responsibilities & with more limited time on the computer. Sometimes I find this a little frightening.

And then I think about how what a relative techno-neophyte I am — we still have just regular cable TV (no movie packages, no digital channels, no PVR), we rarely use our cellphones, we don’t text message, we only JUST got a DVD player a few years ago, the only video game system in our house is a 20-year-old original Nintendo system with the original Mario Brothers game & Duck Hunt. : ) And yet kids today are growing up absolutely immersed in this stuff. I worry sometimes about them & how this is affecting their development and their ability to relate to other people, face to face. (And I weep for their atrocious lack of spelling & grammar skills, but that’s another post.)

21 Cherish { 01.26.10 at 10:00 am }

I love clementines and I’ve blown through them ridiculously fast before too! Hmmm…maybe I shouldn’t blame all of that early marriage weight gain on BCP. 😉

I liked this post. I’m definitely an internet addict and I need to find some balance. Thanks for your brilliant post, as always!

22 Lisa Marsh { 01.26.10 at 10:17 am }

I hope that your mouth feels better already. You are brave…I am a dentist’s worst nightmare. Seemingly sane on outside; a seething mess of raw nerve endings on the inside ready to pounce on anyone who comes within range of my kicking leg.

I’ve been thinking about the constant stream of information. My daughter made a comment over the weekend that I am “on Twitter every minute of the day.” It’s not quite true, but that’s what it seemed like to her. I got the feeling that the family had seen the back of my head far too often while we were in the kitchen together. I never want social networking to take the place of time better spent with my family. I drew her round to the desk and showed her that even when Twitter is on my screen, I have other tabs open. I write an article, then tweet it. I get an email with good info, I tweet it. I need help (lots) & tweet it.

I have two streams of girlfriends: the ones I know through my kids and the ones I know through my business. Not one of those among my Mommy friends owns any techie information tools or does any more than the occasional FB post, but nearly everyone among my business friends has accounts on LinkedIn, FB, Twitter, Ecademy, as well as shiny new I-Phones with Apps. I am drawn in more and more. If I am on the computer after 10 p.m., my husband nags me to get off. I’m not addicted, but I am so entertained by witty comments, great info and links to news I never would have had access to otherwise.
As a tutor of creative writing, I still make every child sit with his or her dictionary next to their notebook, instead of letting them get away with “who cares, spell check will pick it up.” I still love the feeling of holding a real book, turning the pages, and falling asleep with the book open on my chest. But, if someone would buy me a Kindle, I would be ecstatic. I think what I am trying to say is that I am sitting on the fence on this issue.

23 K { 01.26.10 at 1:26 pm }

So weird because I just had this conversation with my husband yesterday before reading your post- *shiver and goose bumps*

I agree- I noticed that though I feel productive online I’m almost half dazed on-line kind of surfing here surfing there and really it feels like you’re moving but you’re not.

24 Nicole { 01.26.10 at 2:06 pm }

I never in a million years thought I would ever find myself saying this, but I am JEALOUS that your gum graft used donated tissue! And I say this only because when I had mine done, the tissue they used came from the roof of my mouth – as in, they cut a section of tissue off of the roof of my mouth and sewed it to my gumline. Awesome.

And I would think all of the clementines would have had the opposite effect – if nothing else from all of the fiber. Ahem.

And I love this. I have always gravitated towards the blogging world because it seems that I can rarely find more than 5 minutes at a time to read or write something. More and more lately, however, I am seeing how unproductive and unfulfilling this really is, and am trying harder to set aside a block of time that is focused and structured and that make me feel like I have spent it wisely. Great post!

25 Sunny { 01.26.10 at 8:32 pm }

What an interesting idea, thanks Mel. My information consumption has only gotten worse since I’ve been on bedrest… I feel like I have a full-time job, checking blogs and forums and whatnot. I can’t even keep up! Things are going to have to change drastically when the twins come…

26 luna { 01.27.10 at 1:33 am }

amen, sister. I love this post and I’ve been thinking about it a lot. good food for thought.

slow to respond though. heh.

27 Bea { 01.29.10 at 5:52 pm }

Yes, I still haven’t found the balance, but it is true.

Although I do think one of the great pleasures of the internet is being able to randomly surf, and a certain amount of this should fall within the slow information movement – the unstructured exploration vibe seems to fit well. Although obviously if out of control it does just become noisy and overstimulating.


28 Julie Tapp { 03.18.12 at 11:50 pm }

We thought we came up with this “slow info” concept over our “slow food” dinner this evening. Then I searched and found this post. Congrats for being the first seen in the ground. Now let’s shed some water and light on the concept and start a movement! Posting to facebook, and waiting for further discourse and instructions 🙂

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