Las Vegas, Nevada is a city whose name is synonymous with excess. So, it should come as no surprise that Vegas was the birthplace of the American buffet. In the 1940s hotel publicist, Herb McDonald established the Buckaroo Buffet. It was a 24-hour, all-you-can-eat restaurant in the El Rancho Vegas hotel and casino.
At the Buckaroo Buffet, late-night gamblers were invited to enjoy “every possible variety of hot and cold entrees to appease the howling coyote in your innards,” according to one flier. For just $1 patrons were promised: “everything you can eat, and you’ll want it all!”
In many ways, the internet has become the Buckaroo Buffet of information. News sites and social media feeds serve us a bottomless smorgasbord of information. But at this restaurant, the waiters are paying attention. Algorithms note what holds our attention and are all too happy to heap more of it onto our plates.
The goal of the Buckaroo Buffet was to keep patrons from leaving so they’d keep gambling. In the same way, online platforms are happy to give you more of what you like, as long as it holds your attention. Because they make money from reselling your attention to advertisers.
But as creepy as this arrangement might be, it’s not actually our biggest problem. There’s another parallel between buffets and online media that presents a far greater danger to the Christian.
Getting Fat on Bad Ideas
Buffets don’t exactly promote portion control. And if you ate all your meals at a buffet, it would lead to serious health issues.
It’s good to be scrupulous about the food we put in our bodies. But if we are negligent when it comes to our information diet, we may harm our spiritual health.
Christians must be intentional about what we put into our minds. Because the truth is, our worldview is shaped more by nudges than shoves. Hearing the Sunday sermon, reading your Bible, and listening to good theology is important. But by imperceptible degrees, every news article, every Instagram Reel, every tweet, and every TV show episode we consume is shaping how we look at the world. It’s shaping how we think about God, other people, and even ourselves.
What you dwell on is what will form your theology. This is why Paul was so adamant about believers fixing their minds on the good and true (Philippians 4:8).
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” – Philippians 4:8
With more information coming at us than ever before, one of the most necessary (and I believe undervalued) skills for Christians in this information age is the skill of curating your information diet.
So to that end, here are three ways you can better curate your information diet.
1. Choose Quality Over Quantity
When it comes to information humans have a bias toward novelty.
This has always been the case. In Acts 17:21, Luke describes the people of Athens this way: “Now all the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there would spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new.”
That sounds like us, doesn’t it? We love to hear or tell something new.
New is why we call it news, new is what makes the gossip juicy, and new is what drives that constant urge we have to “check” our phones. We want that little dopamine hit of novelty. But this natural bias toward new information presents a problem for the believer living in the age of information.
There is lots of new. But new does not always mean true.
With our never-ending feeds of news stories, YouTube videos, and social updates from friends and influencers, we can become thoughtless about what we consume. If we allow our information diet to be dictated by only what’s new and interesting, we may consume a great quantity of information, but it will not necessarily be quality information.
By quality information, I mean those things that Paul described in Philippians 4:8. We are to think about things that are noble and true.
There are two great ways to fueling that kind of thought life:
- Consume less information
- Commit to consuming only high-quality material
When it comes to a good information diet, choose less quantity and better quality.
But how do we stock our mental pantries with that kind of information?
2. Reject Algorithms
The way we find information on the internet has changed.
It used to be that you would bookmark your favorite websites. Then, you would check on them from time to time to see if they had any good articles. But with the dominance of social networks, most of us have turned the actual choosing of what we consume over to Silicon Valley algorithms. If it doesn’t show up in our feed, we don’t know it exists.
But entrusting your information diet to an algorithm is the exact opposite of being intentional. To put it bluntly, most of us are allowing social networks to determine the content of our thought lives.
If we want to fill our minds with the true and the good, we need to take responsibility for what we read, watch, and listen to. We need to say, “thanks, but no thanks, algorithm. I’ll decide what I put in my head.”
3. Find Trusted Aggregators
The task of curating your information diet is hard work.
So you might be tempted to simply log off the internet for good, and yeet your laptop into the sea. But if you recognize that there is good content online that is edifying and full of truth, and if you don’t want to explain to your employer why your company computer is at the bottom of the Pacific, there is a way to make this task of discernment easier.
In your quest to fill your mind with what is true and noble, recognize that you don’t have to do it alone. Seek out trusted aggregators.
Try going old school on this problem. Find a few good websites and newsletters. Choose sites and individuals you can trust to be discerning. This is one of the reasons I so enjoy Tim Challies’ A la carte posts. Like a nutritionist of the soul, he sources articles that he believes will be genuinely helpful for believers. This is what I try to do with my own newsletter, Reagan’s Roundup, as well. I pull together the best articles I find each week on the topic of productivity and the Christian life. I’m trying to serve the church by being a curator of good content, and there are many others doing the same thing.
My point is that there are tons of great resources that can help you pre-filter a lot of the noise. If you identify a few trusted sources, you can replace the algorithms and take back control of what you’re putting in your mind.
Try it for yourself. Curate a list of great podcasts. Set up an RSS reader and subscribe to great websites like For the Gospel. Sign up for good email newsletters. And start making lists of the films or TV series you’re interested in. That way you can research them in advance, instead of blindly subjecting yourself to whatever is trending on Netflix tonight.
If you want to become the type of person God wants you to be, you need to fill your mind with the types of thoughts that will mold you into that person. That means you need to curate your information diet.
So walk away from the buffet. Be intentional about what you put in your head. And see what God does when you feed your thought life with content that is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.