Information obesity

I know that every one of you has your own version of this story, but listen to this. I’m going car camping with my family next week. I bought a new tent. See:


Now where should we go? I don’t really care… it’s going to be a low key trip to someplace not too far away. I buy a book called The Best in Tent Camping: New England. I start reading about the best campgrounds in Massachusetts. After a while, I’m reading about the Mohawk Trail, where the Cold River crashes noisily down the granitic glacier-fractured hillside. Where whispering understory birches are sheltered by towering firs. Now my mouth is watering. I have to go. I am referred to ReserveAmerica, a well-built web site that manages thousands of parks nationwide, and… DAMN! Mohawk Trail State Forest is booked solid. I start researching other nearby campgrounds, and now I’m sucked into the game. Unfortunately, ReserveAmerica lets you pick your campsite from an interactive map, and my book tells you which sites are the very best at each campground. Just when you start to salivate about the perfect spot, your dream is dashed by some early bird camper who’s beaten you to the reservation. You can cycle through this process for hours.

But here’s the thing. There are actually still plenty of campsites, and I’m sure most of them are lovely. We got a nice spot, we’ll have a good time, and we’re only staying for one night anyway. But all that research has filled me with remorse about the perfect spot that got away. Embittered, I’m now planning a little midnight visit to the tent at Site 46 at Mohawk Trail State Forest. I will decorate it with peanut butter and bacon grease. I will do this for two reasons: Site 46 should have been mine, and black bears just love bacon.

My research was making me crazy. In the old days, maybe you’d call ahead and reserve a spot. You’d arrive and they’d tell you where to park. That was that. But now you know what you’re missing.

It occurred to me that I was suffering from information obesity. Prosperity has caused most of us to go from problems associated too little food to problems associated with too much food. Until you adjust to the change, hoarding and binging can make you fat, sick, and miserable. Once I started thinking about information the same way, I could just picture the greasy fat folds in my brain.

There’s nothing wrong with data as such, but please! Lay off the carbs and get some exercise. Make decisions and move on. And remember to wipe down the equipment before you leave.