Information - the Oxford English Dictionary describes it as:
1. Facts provided or learned about something or someone.
2. What is conveyed or represented by a particular arrangement or sequence of things.
Both of these sound helpful - right? What if you are being fed unhealthy quantities of said information? What if the quality of said information is - excuse my French - really cr@p? Is it still helpful then? How do you differentiate between good quality and appropriate quantity of information?
Yes, information can indeed be a double edged sword in many instances.
As a society we have to endure the constant supply of information, in fact, we demand it. Unfortunately we have lost the ability (or maybe the will) to stem the flow of incoming information and say, "enough is enough".
Too much of a good thing?
In today's world, we often try to digest any and all information - without trying to assess the accuracy of the information. By doing so, we become overwhelmed and stressed.
Don't paint everyone with the same brush though...
A 2016 study conducted by the Pew Research Center found that "a large majority of the American public do not feel that information overload is a problem for them." In fact, only 20% of respondents felt overloaded.
With the information floodgates open, content is rushing at us in countless ways. Anyone can be a blogger, publisher and news distributor these days.
Add to that regular old text messages, Facebook friend requests, Tweets, Pins, Snapchats, Direct Messages, Message Chats, LinkedIn invitations, and don't forget about good old e-mail!
Quick question - when was the last time you achieved inbox zero in ALL of your email accounts? Be honest... My answer: Mmm, never <blush emoji>
Social media and technology are big contributors to information overload. Earl Miller, a neuroscientist at MIT, says, “Our brains are not made to multitask well”. We just kind of become more unproductive as a result of too much stimuli and (do) not (have) enough ability to focus."
What does all of this mean?
With all this information at our fingertips, are we really learning anything? Or are we becoming a society of mindless information consumers? Are we setting ourselves up for failure?
Stanford researchers have found that "people who are regularly bombarded with several streams of electronic information do not pay attention, control their memory or switch from one job to another as well as those who prefer to complete one task at a time".
Smartphones, tablets, phablets and computers are a distraction if usage is not monitored and limited. That, however, is easier said than done!
"The youth is the hope of our future" - Jose Rizal
The youth of today must lead the way for a brighter future. But are they being overloaded with too much? The fear is that more and more information is being pushed and forced into people’s brains, resulting in the lack of ability to make decisions.
This is a scary thought indeed and unfortunately this overload of information may not be aligned with the best interest of human beings in general.
The late researcher, Clifford Nass, from Stanford University said, “Cognitive performance declines when people try to pay attention to too many media channels at once.” This is because our brains don’t have enough time to retain quality information, as it’s always trying learn something new.
The decrease in attention span seems to be an obvious side effect to multitasking too frequently, especially toward empty, useless information.
In an age where we are consuming more and more information, (and the rate of consumption is rising alarmingly) is there an end in sight? Sadly, eliminating the over stimulus may be too much to ask for, but there are ways to decrease its negative impact on us.
Here are a few simple steps to take to curb the intake of information:
- Limit your exposure to ANY form of media - rather spend time with friends, chatting, going to the beach, walking in a park. All these things can and should be done without the distraction of a screen.
- Restrict your children's usage of technology - if you're stumped for ideas, here are 10 easy ways to do so.
- Do some soul searching and find out what makes you truly happy -can your life still be meaningful (to you) without technology? We're not suggesting going off the grid, getting a cow and ditching society altogether (although that does sound pretty peaceful right now) but when you cut back on technology in your life, you often rediscover who you truly are. That, in itself, is one step closer to a meaningful and happy existence, don't you think?
In conclusion - yes, Information Overload is a real thing girlfriend! Be mindful not only of the quality of the information you consume, but also the quantity.
What can you do, TODAY, to limit your consumption of information? More importantly, what you you willing to do?