Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Speed of Information

I am beginning to wonder if we have reached the tipping point for information intake in the information age.

I have found myself (coming back to work) highly stressed over something I could not put my finger on.  I did not really identify it until yesterday, when I realized that I am simply overwhelmed by information.

Let us take a hypothetical working man, age 30 or so.  Most likely when he rises in the morning, he reaches for his cell phone to check social media or e-mail or a website.  He gets ready for the day, perhaps with said cell phone in hand as he eats and washes - or maybe he opens a laptop or tablet or even has video going.

He gets in the car, which is quite possibly filled with either music or talk or a podcast.  Upon his arrival at work, he is flooded - not by conversations with coworkers but with e-mails.  E-mails asking for things, e-mails telling him things, e-mails he sends in response.  He himself may have to go to other websites for work to gather information - all at the same time he is cycling through his phone for social media, sports scores, or news.  This does not include interactions with individuals who are exchanging information with him - although strangely enough, these seem to happen less and less as requests for information and decisions are more and more on screens.

The drive home is probably similar to the drive to work: more intake of music or talk or a podcast.  Likely during the evening prior to going to bed he is on his phone or computer again, probably for personal reasons but maybe for work as well.  Finally, he sets the alarm on his phone and drifts off to sleep.

Sound crazy?  I would argue it is horribly true, in a greater or lesser extent, for most adults (at least in the U.S.).  We have arrived at the age of information only to find that we not only have all the information, we have too much information.

Imagine, if you will, telling acquaintances that you do not Facebook or Snapchat or watch TV or (horrors) do not even own a smart phone or TV.  The response you get would be as if you had come from another planet - everybody does these things because everybody needs to be plugged into the 24 hour, 365 day a year news, work, and social cycle. 

Which is where I found myself yesterday. Literally feeling overwhelmed by a tsunami of information that rolls over me like a flood.

How does one back out of such a thing?  Yes, one can do it in small doses - limit (or eliminate) electronic entertainment, cut down or out the time one spends in social media or just on-line in genera, change what one listens to driving - but even then, in an information age all things are ultimately about information.  You cannot escape the need - foisted upon us by our careers at least - of needing to be in such a current for eight or more hours a day.

I have no idea how this ends for us.  The human mind, it seems to me, is not made for the sort of constant intake of information which may or may not be actionable which we seem to be subjected to. We are creating a world of faster and faster, more and more - which ultimately leads to the sort of world that only those that think at the speed of information can navigate.

Which pretty much limits it to computers or those wired into them physically.  Maybe William Gibson's Neuromancer was only slightly ahead of it's time.


Rain said...

That was me you described until I severely burned out at age 33. I had to learn the hard way I guess. I do appreciate the modern age for the internet, because it's just so handy and also it affords me friendships that I would not want in "real life". But that doesn't mean I overdo it. My only form of "social media" is blogging, which is more like sharing and interacting on a more personal level (at least for me). Places like Facebook don't appeal to me because in my opinion, it's a lazy person's medium. I had a FB account years ago at the urging of a Blogger friend. I thought it would bring us closer, but it only turned me off more. Instead of a thoughtful comment on my blog or a nice friend email once in a while, it was replaced with a "like" or a "poke"...shudder. Our friendship fizzled after that experience!

Since burning out, I can't tolerate music, noise or conversation too much. With the exception of Alex and the pets that is. I hate having a "smart phone", but it is useful when I'm out in the woods as a way to communicate if I need to. Otherwise, I rarely use it.

Anonymous said...

Hi TB,
Check out this video,it explains the problem.

Nicholas Carr – What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains


Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

The Internet is a mixed blessing, Rain. On the one hand - yes, it affords new ability to find information and buy things and make friendships (you and I, for example). On the other hand it can easily become a very unforgiving master.

My primary interaction is blogging, like you. I have a Facebook account, largely for my family's benefit (Grandparents love pictures!) and for throwing friends. I have a handful of websites I visit for news (I am working to trim these down as well).

Everyone commented on our trip back to California how far I could drive without saying anything. I have to be social at work; as a result, I tend to be quiet everywhere else. I keep toying with the thought of abandoning my smart phone and going back to a flip phone, but honestly smart phones are so embedded in the culture now that they are almost a work requirement along with pens.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Jeff - Thanks for stopping by and thanks for sharing. I watched the video - it makes total sense and very concisely describes the feelings that I am experiencing. It does give one pause about how often I seek out new information.

I wonder how one trains one's self against this tendency?

Anonymous said...

Hi TB,
This is a major problem. I'll comment more on Saturday. I have a NT Greek class on Friday and I need to study.

Take care


Rain said...

Oh TB, I LOVED my flip phone!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Ha Rain! Me too! People could only call (or possible text in a painful fashion).

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Awesome, Anonymous Jeff! Looking forward to it!