What Is Information Overload?
Have you ever started something new – a new job, a new sport, even a new game and you’re trying to learn the information, but it feels like your brain might explode?
That’s an exaggerated symptom of information overload, or having to take in too much information in a short amount of time, or at once. Most people are experiencing this daily due to fast access to information, mainly via the internet.
The use of social media has increased exponentially; here are some sobering facts (Allegheny-Kiski Health Foundation, n.d.):
- People check their phones at least 46 -74 times per day
- Social media is addictive, according to newer studies
- 81% check their phone while dining out
- 76% of Americans attribute information overload with their stress
- 35% of workers feel overload affects their performance, with 30% feeling it affects their job satisfaction
Information overload can cause the following symptoms:
* Cardiovascular issues
* Memory and concentration problems
* Lack of sleep
* And more…
Plus, often it can cause problems in interpersonal relationships and work relationships. The reason is that most information overload is a choice you make. You choose to be on social media all day; you choose to watch every single news station and every single pundit on TV talk about whatever is the topic of the day.
It’s Like Drinking Water from a Fire Hydrant
Anytime you want to learn something, it’s tempting to start gathering tons of information. And due to the net, it’s easy to get drawn down into the rabbit hole of unending information. It becomes hard to determine what information is good and what information is bad.
It Leads to Poor Information Filtering
When you are bombarded with so much information, your brain can’t filter it properly. Your brain does something called twigging, which means that instead of filtering information in terms of importance it just generalizes all information as being the same. This is terrible for decision making.
It Leads to FOMO: The Fear of Missing Out
The Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) is related to our emotions and a belief that other people are living better, doing more, and have more satisfaction in their lives. This result leads feelings of anxiety, or worry, that you are missing out on wants in your life. It leads to self-comparison which does nothing for your self-esteem and confidence.
It Leads to Bad Choices
If you can’t properly filter information to determine what is true, what is right and what is wrong, you’ll have a hard time making the right choices. The information overload causes you to choose wrongly on any number of issues, because with so much noise going on you can’t determine what is right.
It Harms Your Relationships
Information overload can harm your relationships. If you’re always reading your smartphone, looking at social media and aren’t present in your life, it can hurt intimacy. If your partner and friends are complaining, take heed.
It Leads to Black and White Thinking
The world is not black and white. The world is colorful, black, white, gray and everything in between and more. The same can be said for a lot of issues. There are very few issues that are either right or wrong, black or white.
If you have too much information at your fingertips and are rating everything the same, it’s easy to see things as black and white, which can make it hard to negotiate a happy life and successful business. Some people can take it further by relying solely on what they’ve read on the internet or news as the gospel truth, which harms one’s way of thinking and critical thinking.
It Can Lead to Mental Issues Like Anxiety and Depression
When you get to the point of information overload, a lot of people experience mental problems such as short-term memory issues and even depression. If you find that you’re just feeling mixed up a lot, forget appointments and aren’t doing your best at home or work, consider information overload as a potential culprit.
Information overload can be a big problem for a lot of people. People are wrecking their cars due to not being able to turn away from looking at their text messages. Who knows how much money is lost in overall productivity due to information overload which, according to a study by Basex, is $900 billion.
So, what is the solution?
First, look at your usage of how you are taking information in, which includes: social media, TV news and shows, gaming, reading magazine and books, talking to others; information is exchanged at a constant rate so assessing how much, and in what formats, will help to begin to limit your involvement.
Begin to ‘detach’ in smaller steps, such as not opening your phone for 30 minutes, then increase your time; limit your TV time; read for 20-30 minutes then go outside and walk. To calm your brain from not worrying about what you think you’re missing, small is better (although going ‘cold turkey’ is a better way for some.
Monitor your physical and mental health to see progress and how much better you feel – are you more alert and able to concentrate longer; do you feel more energetic; are you sleeping better; do you feel happier. Looking at the ‘before’ and ‘after’ can help you recognize the benefits of your efforts so you continue on. You might be surprised to realize how much you don’t miss those activities as much as you thought.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed, which is affecting you productivity and emotional health, reach to get help. You don’t have to struggle alone.