Home Adapting Information Overload or Welcome to the 21st Century

Information Overload or Welcome to the 21st Century

by Kerry Dawson

Information overload

Over the course of the years, the information available to us has been growing. In modern society, it has been getting to such a level it has become overwhelming.

In Alvin Toffler’s “Future Shock” he saw the rapidity of the accumulation of information happening so fast he coined the phenomenom Future Shock. This book was written in 1970 over 50 years ago.

The premise really was based on the idea that information was being gathered exponentially causing what he coined future shock or man meet the future very abruptly. We are not designed to deal with the accumulation of knowledge in such a fashion. As a result we suffer from unusual ailments or normal ailments such as anxiety which can be attributed to such a massive expansion of the world’s database of information.

Things have Only Sped up Since Toffler’s book was Written

Today we seemingly have an overload of all things. In terms of media, there is an abundance of movies old and new and TV series we can’t possibly keep track of. Then we have books that we used to enjoy and still do but time is becoming quite the problem. There’s the news which is far from local anymore and something we might be able to keep up to but likely not. However, news these days comes from every part of the world and for some reason we feel we need to know it all. Part of this reason might simply be the world is so interconnected we feel a strong need to know what’s going on elsewhere.

As example, the current Corronovirus is wreaking havoc in the world economy and thus that of local economies. Apple is unable to get the supplies they need to sell. This is affecting their stock value and if you’re a shareholder and part of your retirement funds are in Apple the quality life could be severely impacted by this outbreak half way around the world and coming here fast.

Entertainment and Media


If we look at media today it comes to us via the internet in streaming format. TV or the old fashion TV is dying. Now we can watch our shows at our convenience. A simple social function of discussing last nights episode of such and such has evaporated and been replaced by “are you watching?” and no but “are you watching?” and on it goes. There are now so many shows to watch it is a rare moment that we do this as a community.

The upside is we have a lot of choice and flexibility. The downside is we are overwhelmed by what to watch and the social glue this provided.

Books – who has the Time to Read?

Books were an intrinsic medium for both story’s and the telling of truths. Now there is an abundance of books likely due to many factors but one being as the boomers retire at a younger age they have actually retired too young and want something to do. So they write a book and since we have a highly educated society they are likely capable of the task. Again, there is just so much to read and we are all working with a 24 hour, 7 day a week clock.

Print articles are no Longer Just on Paper

One thing that has definitely changed is the medium to get printed articles to us. There is an abundance of bloggers and a lot of them make for good writers.

The printed medium still exists but now we’re inundated with the new medium. How do we decide what to read and when to do it. On top of that, there is just so much to read we are in the habit of circling our areas of interest to try to keeps what comes at us narrower. We are becoming a specialty consumer of information. On top of that, people have developed a propensity for skimming. No longer are we sitting and just breathing in the printed word a relaxing exercise. We’re becoming the 21st century’s consumer junkies.

Finally we need to Support Ourselves and a Potential Family

The day even before it starts is off to the races. We need to check our calendar, our todo list, have something like coffee to start the day on and oh yeah – go to work. Work was one of our most major time consumers. We need to make money to support ourselves and a potential family. At work, we’re confronted by all the above elements if not more just to get through the day and make that all important buck.

Money is also out of control. Inflation wreaks havoc on our buying power which is required for all the activities we do every day. A job is no longer guaranteed for life let alone beyond today. However, it is still essential for a variety of reasons. That a job is essential to our ability to look after things is without question but it is yet another input vying for our attention. To be everything an employer wants education can be expensive and just maneuvering the caveats of the job can be challenging.

Technology was supposed to help but it seems to be Helping at Burying us

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Time in now shrieking by. It’s getting more difficult to determine priorities and decide what is essential and what isn’t. Is it any wonder some feel like dropping out of this mess or that depression, anxiety or other mental ailments are on the rise. Suicide certainly looks like a reasonable option to get out of this insanity.

Human beings are endowed with a great deal of flexibility but there is a limit. We aren’t designed to be boundless. There are some things more desired than others. However, the pressures and demands seem to be coming at us from every angle.

Technology isn’t proving to be that great liberator. It has lead to problems in the past and can do the same thing now especially if we don’t know how to handle this beast we’ve created. Jacques Ellul theorized that what he referred to as technique took on a life of it’s own and lead to the world wars and other things. It would be interesting to know what he thinks about the techniques we have today.

Our todo lists are designed to help us set goals based on our value systems. They are designed to isolate our goals and set a structured was of getting to that point. However, what if our task managers are just reflecting a jumble of mudlled up priorities. These priorities become jumbled when too much is vying for our attention and we’re trying to assign to everything a specific role at a certain time of which we don’t have. Pressure and stress is the result.

No Turning Back but Setting Goals is Essential

Technology often seems to have a mind of its own. There might be no turning back from this. However, we can ultimately decide that these priorities society is proscribing have no value to us. We can decide the job is important but it’s not necessary to read a book a month, watch every major TV show, not bother with the news articles except something close to home and time spent with loved ones is the most important. Our technology can help with that but we have to know when enough is enough. Just bailing might be good enough to preserve sanity as it is sanity which is at risk. We also have to know that bailing is not running away but actually tackling the problem as our sanity is at risk.

Future Shock or trauma is a real thing. Going to the gym fifty times a week won’t balance an unbalanced life. It is necessary to bring back some balance to our out of control lives.

Does time seem to be slipping by at an unusual rate. Do you miss the realities of the world around you for those selfies you took. I do not know what the answer is but maybe some will concentrate on some things and others will be drawn to something else. The ability to let go is one of the hardest things we face. We often feel we’re not living up to the demands of the world or failing if we’re not taking on every aspect technology throws at us. It’s impossible anyway to take on every aspect that technology is throwing our way. Setting priorities and goals seems the only practical way to bring back balance. The question is can we do it.

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