Have you ever heard of someone complaining about ‘Information Overload’? Too much information, they argue, is causing them to work less, think less, and do less. It sounds like college students suggesting that studying too much will inevitably lead to lower grades.
How can people, natural seekers of information and entertainment, now complain about overwhelming RSS feeds, exploding inboxes, and multi-tasking smart phones? Especially after they invested so much money and time in all these products and services? Well, it’s happened. And personally I think people’s fears and worries are misplaced…
With the internet as it is–it’s a challenge to focus on one story or one video clip for too long because, in the back of your mind, you know there’s something better on the horizon–something more educational and informative and funny a click away. Or, you may decide to replay to all your emails and texts and when you think you’ve accomplished something–your inbox and phone is backlogged again. You and I are the modern Sisyphus.
Some days 8 hours go by and you suddenly realize that your to-do list and still staring at you, untouched, with its usual smugness.
Is it a problem though? Will people really turn into simple headline spouting creatures that lack all nuanced knowledge? Will we only be able to digest 149 characters of information at a time before our minds start to flicker out?
What people are constantly forgetting is that people’s knowledge is getting deeper–it just depends on what they are interested in. Do you have a deep fascination with stationary supplies and a closet luddite?–go to a thepenblog.com and you can learn more about pens than your grandfather knew about his favorite baseball team. Are you interested in what’s fashionable in Beijing–go to Stylites and see what’s hip behind the Great Wall first hand. I can go on. You could go on.
So, yes: there is information overload–but there is also room for people, dedicated to a subject, to learn everything about it (quickly). We won’t become mindless creatures only attracted to headlines–we’ll become niche scholars and experts. If you’re reading this blog–chances are you are interested in leadership and you will know more about leadership than most people. When you see someone tweet about leadership your mind doesn’t shut off–it wants to read more and it wants to investigate. However, if it’s a tweet about Cricket scores in New Zealand we might not look into it–but merely glance at the subject and move on. Soon, technology will be created to filter content for us–but right now that job takes time and it’s fun–regardless of what the critics say. Exploring the internet can waste time but it can lead to great finds, new insights, and the discovery of a blog that focuses on pens.
This week we’ll talk more about information overload and what we can do to learn from it and it’s use in the workplace.