In today’s connected society, you can find information anywhere, and at any time of the day. With this constant barrage of information, we can quickly succumb to information overload. There is just too much information for us to process these days, and it can have a devastating effect on our health, as well as our mood. This constant state of information overload that we find ourselves in today can be attributed to the following causes.
1. More Information Than We Can Process
If you search the web for just about any topic, you will get millions of results. Add to this the hundreds of eBooks and dozens of traditionally published books that you can purchase, and you quickly succumb to information overload. There is no way you can process all this information in a lifetime. Just trying to discover who is an authority on the topic adds a whole other dimension to your search.
2. Bombardment of Unsolicited Information
Every day we are bombarded with unsolicited information through our emails and social media networks. Along with all the SPAM mail we receive daily, we are constantly bombarded with ads when you search the Internet. We have email lists that we have subscribed to that are no longer relevant to our work, and social media notifications for news feeds that we are no longer following. All this adds up to an increased amount of unsolicited information that we must deal with just to get to the information that we have requested. Much of it requires interpretation which takes time and investigation, so this puts more pressure on everyone.
3. Accelerated Speed of New Information
Keeping up with the flow of information was a lot easier when most of our data was delivered by mail or obtained through the daily newspaper. Today, thanks to the Internet and social media, we must deal with a flood of information that is rushing at us from all sides. Not only has the speed of delivery increased, but it continues to accelerate.
4. Decreased Value of Information
At one point in our history, the information age was based on the principle that information was valuable. Today, in the attention age, the glut of information that is available, has changed the perceived value of this information causing it to plummet quickly. This applies to all information since we do not have an efficient way to honestly evaluate what is essential, what is merely redundant, and what is plain junk.
With social media and the advent of the external meddling in politics by various organizations, it should not be surprising that much of what is presented is either false, misleading, or spun in a way that is intended to over influence.
5. Intentionally Generated Disinformation
With COVID-19 and a very contentious election, disinformation has been rampant in 2020. Not only is this information inconvenient but it is can also be deadly. Studies have shown that people will rely on their own confirmational bias to determine whether a story, post, or email is valid without ever checking the facts or examining the motivation of the author. This methodology is dangerous for everyone, not just the reader.
The amount of information and ease with which we can obtain it continues to increase exponentially. The best way to combat information overload and lack of integrity is to understand the causes behind the condition. Once you know what causes information overload, you can begin to develop strategies to possibly control it, but in my opinion, you will never be able to beat it.
Here are a few steps you can take to help deal with information overload, mental stress, and emotional entanglement:
- Focus on understanding your own biases and influences that you may be ignoring or find have become too automatic. After you read an article, digest it against your own values, morals, and beliefs. Does it pass muster or is it questionable? If questionable, do not propagate it any further. Ignore it and any other that are similar. Make it a conscious choice, not just a blind reaction.
- Always Fact Check the information if you are not intimately familiar with the subject. Be wary of your own biases as mentioned above when checking your facts.
- Check out the author completely, reputable, or not?
- Check the date of the article or email. Often it is old news.
- Check any of the supporting material and the source.
- Use an online tool such as snopes.com or factcheck.org.
- Seek to Unite & Integrate, not Polarize or Divide.
- Facts alone can no longer convince the multitudes, we must understand the beliefs and motivation of the writer to know if it is true, i.e. beneficial for everyone, or lies, i.e. destructive to everyone. Diversity in information is great but using it to divide makes for a destructive path that is tough to make useful discussion possible.
- Know trolls when you see them on social media and work at defeating them. Support the victim and expose the trolls for who they are. Trolls can be a person, group, program, bot, or algorithm unleashed by someone. In any situation, they are deadly and can have dire consequences for some victims.
- Social Media is a Tool for Creating Human Connection.
If people feel connected to others, that can bring out their best selves. However, when people feel disconnected, anger, hate, and dissonance can come out. Always seek a positive connection or walk away.
Always ask yourself these four age-old questions to determine whether something is worth saying or sharing:
- Is it true?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it kind?
- Is it appropriate?
In summary, information can help bring out our best selves, but only if we use it as a forum for authentic communication. Social media, like Facebook and Google can introduce new tools to encourage such communication, but ultimately, it is up to you what you want to see and spread. With that comes with accountability and responsibility.
It is helpful to bring mindfulness to any review of information, social media, or chat in the same way we would to real-world, face-to-face conversation. Pay attention to your own thoughts and beliefs and try to be constructive when you discuss them with others.