Information Overload: A Modern Malaise

Information Overload: A Modern Malaise
Information Overload: A Modern Malaise

I have a bad habit of letting my emails accumulate and then periodically I have a mountainous job of deleting, filing and replying.

Today was a mountainous day. Emails from friends, family, clients, facebook, blogs, banks, utilities, subscriptions, suppliers, spammers…And so on.

As I wandered through my stack, the possible topic for today’s post was traipsing around in the background. I had quite a few emails from other blogs. Including tips on blogging, so my mind was totally overloaded with ideas. None fully formed, and overall the effect was a watering down of any idea and a feeling of manic overwhelm. So, rather than trying to choose one topic I’m just going to let my brain keep spinning and hopefully at the end it will have slowed own enough for me to go to bed and get some sleep.

So really this post is more like an information download, a mental cleansing so that I can be at peace!!

Information overload is a modern malaise. The stats on the amount of information we consume on a daily basis are outlandish:

The daily New York Times now contains more information that the 17th century man or woman would have encountered in a lifetime.  (Wurman, S.A. (1987)  Information Anxiety.  New York:  Doubleday, 32.)

“In the last 30 years mankind has produced more information than in the previous 5,000.”  (Information Overload Causes Stress. (1997, March/April).  Reuters Magazine. Available:  Lexis Nexis Universe [4/28/98].)

“The average Fortune 1000 worker already is sending and receiving approximately 178 messages and documents each day, according to a recent study, “Managing Corporate Communications in the Information Age.”  (Boles, M. (1997)  Help! Information overload. Workforce, 76, 20.)

No wonder we all often feel overwhelmed. How to keep up with all this information?  The fb status updates, the blog posts, the rss feeds, and then there’s the odd email from parents.

Hand-written letters

Wow, correspondence has evolved quickly. When was the last time you made the effort to write a letter? When was the last time you received a hand written letter? The answers to these questions for me are: 1. I really can’t remember the last time I hand wrote a letter. I’ve written postcards in the last few months. And that quite frankly was a pain in the neck. I’ve gotten so used to typing everything that my handwriting muscles have atrophied. 2. My grandmothers still send me handwritten notes. I wonder if letter writing will die with their generation.

Another email I received was offering advice on blogging topics and one topic they suggested stuck… The topic was “for personal blogs, try writing about how you relax”. Hmm, how do I relax? I thought about it for a while and realised I don’t do much relaxing at all. I’m pretty much go, go, go from waking up in the morning to collapsing into bed at the end of the day. One thing to another with plenty of multi-tasking (and confused spin) for the whole day.

Wow, what a realisation. And then what is ‘relaxation’. Is it going to the movies, is it reading a book, is it watching tv? When you think about it none of these things are really relaxing. You’re still doing something…watching, thinking… I think true relaxation is the ability to switch off mind and body. So, aside from sleeping or meditating, how and when do I relax in this way?

Hot Baths :)
Hot Baths 

It took me a decent amount of thinking to actually be able to define relaxing and then think when I do it. Finally I did come up with some occasions: Languishing in a hot bath, floating on my back in the ocean, lying in the sun on a warm beach or in a grassy paddock (field). But I don’t do any of these things regularly.

And that brings me to another topic that sprang out of the emails I went through today. An email from The Positivity Blog. (Great blog!) This particular email gave ways to live a less stressful life. And one of the points was just to slow down. So chances are, if I really have to think about how I relax… I should do a little more of it so it just rolls off the top of my head! (I even walk quick, everywhere, always.)

Well, you’ll be relieved to hear that you’re nearing the end of this chaotic post, brought on by a day of information overload.

…It’s great to have so much information at our fingertips but it can often be so overwhelming that it becomes completely counterproductive. Here are some more stats on that (loving the stats today):

The cost of Information Overload to the U.S. economy is $900 billion annually, as of 2008. (Spira)

A mere 12% of the knowledge worker’s day is spent in thought or reflection. (Spira)

We spend 15% of the day searching for things and 20% in meetings. (Spira)

…Thanks for choosing to read this amongst all the other billion words that have been on offer to you today.
This is Day Nine of a 30 day writing challenge
inspired by Matt Cutts on TED Talks

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