Today is Information Overload Awareness Day, the day attention is focused on the crazy state of information overload existing in the world, thanks to ‘the Internet’ (a concept that is becoming more abstract and hazy by the day), social media, blogging, cloud computing, you name it.

And, by writing this blog entry about it, I am of course adding yet another drop to the ocean of information, contributing knowlingly to the ever rising levels of useful and useless information that is threatening to engulf every remaining bit of ‘dry land’ of the world.

It was estimated as long ago as 2008 that information overload is costing the US economy around $900 billion a year, through lowered employee productivity. When numbers get that big, I’m always unsure what they’re called – that’s almost $1 trillion, right? And that number is probably a lot higher by now. The average ‘knowledge worker’ (itself a term that didn’t really exist before the unbounded proliferation of data and information) is said to spend at least 50% of his day ‘managing information’ – sifting through emails, finding and validating ‘facts’, etc. And that is just the productive side of things – even more time is spent lost in the bottomless depths of facebook, twitter, youtube and the like.

If you can’t beat them, overload them…
While we complain about information overload, we all contribute to the problem – me possibly more than many. But at the same time, social media can be an important and effective tool for marketing and communication. I guess it will always be a careful balancing act between too much and too little.
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The sad thing, of course, is that among the dirt there are some real diamonds. There are blogs and opinion pieces, both online and in print, that I try to read on a regular basis, and that I really feel poorer for not having read for a few days due to some work deadline or other crisis. But finding these among the thousands upon thousands of blog posts generated daily can be a real challenge. Even just trying to keep up with WordPress’ daily Freshly Pressed list is an almost impossible task.

I’m sure no amount of awareness creation about the problem of information overload is going to change things – we have gotten too used to having pages upon pages of information on any and every topic we can possibly think of, at our fingertips. And in many ways it’s good. There’s no way I would have been able to do this blog if there wasn’t all kinds of arbitrary facts floating around to tap into. But at the same time, I guess the responsible thing to do is to at least try and limit the amount of data we push out on a daily basis. Which is one of the reasons I prefer blogging to twitter, for example – in compiling a blog post, I like to believe people at least invest a little thought. Tweeting is just too easy and immediate, resulting in the masses mindlessly excreting an ever-growing pile of data-dung (my personal view, of course).

On the topic of excrement – when did Facebook change from being a place where people actually sort-of talked to each other, to a platform where all people do all day are to share ‘cute’ photos and cartoons, and resend arbitrary ‘amusing’ status updates? Facebook used to be a platform I found quite useful to keep in touch with friends and family when we moved to another country, but over the last couple of years the signal to noise ratio has fallen so low that it is hardly worth facebooking anymore.

Oh well…  There I go – one rant about information overload, and I’ve contributed a few hundred more words to the problem.  I think for the rest of this Information Overload Awareness Day I should just switch off all computers, smartphones, TVs and radios, and go mow the lawn or something.

7 Comments

  1. One thing I find I’m currently reacting to a lot is the whole “Like this picture if you’ve ever eaten a piece of toast!” “Like this picture if you remember the 80’s!” “Like and Share if you aren’t a big jerk!”
    It’s crazy. I feel objectified…like my whole purpose on this planet has been reduced to my ability to click a like button for people’s memes, contests, pages, and photos.
    Of course, that’s quite exaggerated..but it is getting quite irritating. I sometimes feel like un-liking anything that asks me to like it.

    1. I absolutely feel your pain, Jennifer – I hate those “click here if…” posts filling up our facebook pages. And the worst is, they always try to play on your emotions – “share this if you love your wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend”, etc etc. Urgh…

      1. Yeah it’s so silly. Imagine someone getting mad at their partner being like, “I saw that you’re friends with harold, who liked jason’s picture of the heart, and it said click if you love your girlfriend and you didn’t click mister…does that mean you don’t love me?!?!?” hahaha it’s almost funny in that context.

  2. I refuse to have any other online presence than my blog. No facebook, no twitter, nothing. I spend quite enough time there as it is, I can’t imagine that I would be able to contribute anything intelligent to the world on those other platforms. Although, just looking at what most people fb or tweet I doubt that being intelligent is the aim of the game 😉

  3. The information posted by Sciencelens is always useful and/or entertaining – definitely not adding to the vast quantities of low-quality, useless info floating in cyberspace. Keep it up!

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