Information And It’s Close Association With Chaos
As I write this article, my phone is constantly notifying me of messages that I need to answer, news stories that I must go through and Netflix recommendations that the world is already talking about. An itch to reply to one of these texts has me read the latest open letter by Mallika Dua, Facebook comments on the same and eventually my Instagram, Pinterest and Tinder only to eventually get frustrated at the interruption I got myself into. I, as it turns out, am another victim of the modern time disease of Information Overload and the Fear of Missing Out associated with it.
But What Is This Information Overload?
Information Overload, as coined by Alvin Toffler, corresponds to situations where information supplied to an individual exceeds his/her information processing capabilities. It is a modern time lifestyle disease constantly exposing us to content through T.V., internet, and at times, word of mouth. From a number of movies, literary recommendations to all the Facebook friends who are getting married, we are unknowingly consuming gigabytes of information. In fact, there are all these advertisements, force feeding us product information that we might not even need.
And How Is It Causing FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out)?
Scrolling through a number of smartphone applications, we are constantly loading ourselves with information, even during our leisure time.
This need of knowing every unprecedented information, every tweet, Facebook post or news update releases dopamine in our brains, suggests Dr Daniel Levitin, Mc Gill University. Dopamine validates reward-motivating behaviour and hence makes knowing everything addictive.
Now, imagine looking upon a subject on Google for a work assignment only to get some 4 Million results on it. How do we decide which ones are credible? Do we read them all, some of them? This task-related information overload often puts the authenticity and quality of our work at stake and at the same time causes stress. To add to this, there is a media overload with notifications seeking our attention towards the latest news, entertainment and social media updates. And as mentioned above, we need to stay updated, so naturally, more unidentified stress.
The Communication Overload – Another Off-Shoot Of FOMO
Then there is this communication overload, all caused by the advent of social networking sites and a need to stay connected. With this, we sit on a dinner table of five, constantly using our devices to stay connected to a virtual world, while we are nowhere in touch with the moment we are in.
With more friends and followers, thus on the internet, we have fewer interpersonal interactions. We are creating a ‘virtually popular’ image through every party we go to. And this is just the social aspect of the harm cost.
The advent of the internet has led to an abundance of new content over the cloud. In order to cope up with the boom, we are multitasking through our days. We shuffle between our work deadlines; social media feed, news updates and social interactions and thus slice our focus up in four. With this, we focus on one thing, then the other and the rest, eventually depleting our neural resources. This leads to mental exhaustion and forgetfulness. We tend to, therefore, overload ourselves to a point where we can’t remember tiny details: the names of the people involved, the date an event occurred, etc.
But who cares, Google remembers everything, and it remembers 4 Million results of it at that.
The Way Out Of Information Overload
To figure a way out and around this lifestyle disease:
1. Do NOT multitask: Dr Levitin cites how efficiently one can be productive through his day finishing one task at a time. Focusing on the job at hand, we can get more things done with lesser stress levels.
2. Breakthrough the information overload: Let your thoughts flow at times, or meditate. Researchers claim that when our thoughts are loosely connected to one another and flowing, they act as an antidote to our caffeine dependant brains. It is like a reset button for our neural system and we sure need it.
3. Go on a digital diet: Just try it once. Try heading out without a phone. Go hiking. Go meet a friend and not post an Insta story about it. Just do it. You might like it, you might not. But it sure is worth a try.
With this, I heartily apologize for adding another 80 KB of content with this article to the 2.5 Billion GB of information that will be produced this year. Sorry, bro.
- Alvin Toffler’s The Future as a Way of Life.
- Book: Information Overload by Judith B. Strother, Jan M. Ulifin and Zohra Fazal.
- Book: The Organized Mind, Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload by Daniel J. Levitin.