On useless information

I can honestly say, my gut feeling was right – there is just so much information out there, it’s simply not worth engaging with everything that’s vying for my attention. Titles such as ‘The only thing you need to know about XXX’ just do not draw me in anymore!

Here is what happened to me recently. I got my Medium weekly digest, telling me I have access to only two free texts – a hook that is meant to be irresistible. So, I hurry through the list trying to find these two texts worth reading, which should give me essential advice on how to live successfully.

What was I being offered to guide me to appropriate choices?

Key words

Titles try to draw me in – or help make decisions which text to choose (although they do not always match up with the content).

Numbers seem to be present all the time in these titles. Do I go for odd numbers (11, 103, 5, 9) or even (8, 12, 6)?

Key words always stand out to a (semi-)skilled skim reader, like habits, detox, laws, secrets, losing weight, taking responsibility.

Odd phrasings play with one’s mind, like dumb advice, unsuccessful, laws of manhood

Ah, and I get help with the time it takes to read the text as well, although this never lines up with the amount of time I actually take doing it; maybe I am a more attentive reader or looking for a depth that isn’t there: 1 min read, 2 min read, 5 min read. Shall I go for a ‘5 min’ or waste my freebie on a ‘1 min’ text?

Then there are the small visual hook-ins – the smiling 103-year old waiting to tell me her secrets to eternal life, and the intriguing authors’ names. Would it be worth reading Kandise Le Blanc’s pieces of wisdom in preference to Markham Heid’s life experiences (a man with an unusual first name)?

Anyway, this time I had to decide between:


[1] This is how to save yourself…
[2] 11 dumb advice unsuccessful people … (is this even grammatically correct?)
[3] A 103-year old woman’s unusual secrets to …
[4] 8 easy ways to detox …


[5] The way to attract good people …
[6] The only thing you need to know … (yes, this old caper)
[7] Use these 5 methods to increase …


[8] Start taking responsibility …
[9] 12 things about life I learned late …
[10] On guarding …


[11] Six laws of manhood… (hang on, I am a woman, how the heck did this appear here?)
[12] I borrowed the habits of …
[13] Malcolm Gladwell’s … (yes, I do like a bit of MG)

BEST IN LANGUAGE (what does that even mean?)

[14] Preserving … sign language (aha)
[15] Are you too old to use slang like …
[16] The 9 greatest punctuation…


[17] I tried Tinder …
[18] How the Western diet is wreaking havoc …

Phew, overwhelmed already? And I have only two choices to make. What do I go for? Or why bother at all?
And then the analytic hierarchy processing or decision-making software has already sorted things for me by way of subheadings, such as “IN CASE YOU MISSED…” !

Anyway, with all my clever psycho-linguistic pre-training plus gut feeling, I decided on reading
On Guarding Your Mind – saving yourself from useless information by Darius Foroux. The best bit of the article was this clever opening bit of visual storytelling.

I reckon I did ok; interesting read. But, as happens so often, I have the feeling that I already knew 90% of this… Next time I will be on guard and, just maybe, unsubscribe from digests like Medium. It’s on my to-do-list.

Oh, and you might wonder what my second choice was. It was between slang and punctuation… (both language related – they did know my reading habits after all).

Anne is an Academic Skills tutor in the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries.

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