Culture

Information Overload


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how much do we really need to know?

I bought my first smart phone. I was holding out. I didn't want to become one of "those people." The kinds at the cafes glued to tiny little screens walking down the street staring at Facebook updates, or shooting little slingshot birds at pigs all day on a little couple inch wide screen.

But this week, yesterday I caved in. I realized for the first time that I actually couldn't keep up with work because of my lack of technology. Important emails came, and were left unanswered in time, in a world where time is increasingly more critical and less available. It really made me think about the place we're living in. The kind where four hour response times can be the differences between success and failure. This case wasn't super critical, but it was a reminder of a time where I missed out on an interview with a TV network because I didn't get the email until a few hours before they were ready to air. Without the smart phone, without the research capacity on my crummy little clam shell thing, by the time I responded I had a muddied response that was too little too late. This new smaller incident was a reminder and the final tipping point that I had to cough up the fees and pay for what in my view is an overpriced cell phone market - but then, I don't know. Who knows what it costs these companies to put out these service plans, phones, etc. I do have to admit the technology is amazing, I've been starting at my Google Nexus S 4G with a childlike glow in my eyes. This is what it felt like getting SEGA Genesis as a kid on my birthday. These things aren't just tools they're toys, and they're fun. I can see why people get sucked in, however I am now making a conscious effort if that's possible at this point not to.

In this world, people don't just send you emails, they expect you to have a device ready to grab that thing within minutes. Yet - they don't want to call on the good old fashioned telephone, and not the old fashioned one in the sense of the landline sitting on your office desk. I mean people don't even want to send you mere text messages or cell phone calls.

As consumers, we expect instant everything and perhaps the part I'm feeling more than anything is with the smart phone, more than any of these other devices, iPads, laptops, cable news, etc. a sudden non-stop interaction with society begins. Suddenly each email you get is there, each Facebook notification is instantly a part of your life. Your alone time completely diminishes. More importantly it becomes noticeable how your world view could become the media's world view. A world view that's not particularly fun and dandy. One of constant chaos, explosions, deaths, misery, sadness, the rare heartwarming story about some fisherman or something and then more death and sadness. That and stupid polls that none of us normal citizens could possibly know. How could I possibly know if Mayor Bloomberg is doing a good job as mayor? I have no idea how water municipal supplies work, or police dispatching is done, or how he copes with budget problems, or education. I walk down the street and the city looks okay. Maybe filled with a tad too many drunks at night, but nothing out of the ordinary for a major metropolitan area. The guy's worth billions, but what does that mean? Does that guarantee he's a terrible human being? Maybe that's an advantage because he doesn't have to answer to anyone. I don't know, and I'm looking into it, but frankly I'm tired of hearing from people who claim they do get it and really don't.

That finally brings me to my pet peeve here. In a world of information overload, we ask ourselves if we can digest all of this constant news, discussion, media, etc. More importantly I question the validity of the information. In a way I don't think those of us is modern nations have had a lack of information sources for quite some time. Libraries, television, movies, documentaries, books. Those interested in learning always could find a way. The internet opens fantastic doors of opportunities to learn even more, but next time you read an article or watch a video with a "breaking news" banner above it - or a dismal report about just how atrocious everything in this world is, ask yourself two things. Is this person a moron and do they really deserve my time, which we now have so little of? Then ask, is this something I need to know. I'd love to learn Chinese, the 100 things that turn a girl on, the entire job creation background of Rick Perry,, what foods to eat, the history of water fluoridation, the latest songs to hit the Billboard charts, but then... How much can I cram into my head, and how much will ever come to any use in my life? Do I need to know that my friend on Facebook finds mayonnaise to be an item he can't live without? What kind of mental diarrhea is this? Every little notification coming into my inbox as urgent. I read CNN, they seem like they're predicting market collapses before they take place, what is that all about? Who are they to make such assumptions? I check back on Facebook. There's some picture of a dog eating spaghetti. Back to CNN, apparently Pippa is gorgeous according to everyone. Why should I care? What is happening to my life?

I wonder sometimes are we on the brink of brilliance or complete insanity with the communication revolution, because after all what's the point of communicating if the person on the other end can't tell a fork from a spoon. Lame analogy, but whatever - best I could think of. Maybe, you just got hit with fluff from my article. If so, I apologize.

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Updated Apr 22, 2017 9:07 AM EDT | More details

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