Balancing your digital diet starts with cutting empty calories for the brain, says Otherweb founder

We all care about what we eat, but do we care as much about what we feed our brains? Maybe not, says Alex Fink. But we should. The founder and CEO of Otherweb says it's just as important.

Fink says balancing your digital diet is a necessity in life. He says identifying and eliminating information that does not contain nutrients for the mind - or empty calories that the brain consumes - is the first priority.

"Once we're past that – that's the low-hanging fruit – then we can start looking at how much do I want to consume of each different type of information," Fink says.

Near the top of the list of consumable information is news content. "The amount of news is definitely important," Fink says. "At the same time what we've seen is that the quality of the news itself has been going down because it's chasing the same clicks and views as every other medium."

Fink says this trend has lowered the standards that have been applied in the past to news content. "I've started accumulating various interesting bad headlines over the past years, just as kind of a hobby. The worst one I've seen was an article from CNN titled, 'Stop What You're Doing And Watch This Elephant Play With Bubbles.'

"As long as that as a part of our news ecosystem, we have to be extra careful not only to select how much news we consume – but what news we consume as well."

Fink says in his opinion – the story he gave as an example is pure pollution. "It's not news, it's not current events that are being reported on," he said. "It's just something that is there to make me click."

"That is proliferating. There is more and more of that. But under the guise of that, and under this kind of noisy ecosystem that we are creating – now it becomes easier to also pass real fake news as part of it," Fink says.

"People are really focused on filtering out the elephant blowing bubbles and don't notice the elephant in the room, so to speak."

Fink says you can trust tech as long as it is transparent. Companies that need to maximize shareholder value, he says, will do so by trying to maximize engagement.

"So, if you click more on one type of content, whether or not you actually are happy that you clicked it, whether you clicked it by mistake, whether it makes you a more wholesome individual at the end of the day. It won't matter," Fink says. "As long as you click it, they will show you more of it."

"I would say probably if an algorithm thinks you should see this you probably don't. The simplest thing is to try and select content yourself," Fink says.

"Search for what you want to see, and then watch it and stop. Whatever YouTube or TikTok thinks you should also see next is probably not something worth seeing," he added. "You can pause, reflect, and decide what to see next for yourself.

How to Use a 'Nutrition Label' for Online Content:

Filter out "empty calories" (things that have no informational value)

Balance out the different types of information (so you don't over-consume any one type)

Don't let algorithms control what you see next

Curate your sources or use aggregators that curate them for you

Figure out if something is worth consuming before you consume it