This world makes my head hurt in many ways. But for convenience, I want to focus on one grievance: information overload. Every morning, as soon as I open my eyes, I get to work. I unlock my phone and check the weather, my email, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, etc. Later in the morning, I hop on my computer, and get on the internet. Orchids are on my mind today, so I Google them. 25,500,000 results! Next, I head over to the New York Times’ website to catch up on some current events. My screen overflows with hundreds of articles, most of which were published in the past 12 hours. After lunch, I head to the library to try and find a nice book. I stroll through the fiction section, passing by thousands of titles I’ve never heard of before. When I return home, I find my dad flipping through some 2000 channels.
Now don’t get me wrong; I love having all these media at my disposal. I couldn’t imagine living a thousand years ago, when new information was scarce, and current information traveled as fast as we do. But how do we navigate an ocean teeming with information, when we have no bearings? And when we do get our bearings, we still face the issue of which site or newspaper or book or channel or whatever to choose from. I love having options, but 25,500,000 is a little too much for me.
Before I tackle these issues, let me put things into perspective. Around 2002, somewhere between 3.4-5.6 exabytes (exa- is 1018) of original information was created. (Suddenly curious? Follow the source of this fact: http://www2.sims.berkeley.edu/research/projects/how-much-info-2003/.)
So how do we deal with this? First and foremost, look at your sources of information, social media sites included. Make a list of all these sources. Ask yourself: of these, are there some that I rarely or don’t use at all? Then divide the ones that made the cut into related groups. Use within each group, scrutinize each member for its worth.
Let’s start with social media sites and email. We all friend or follow or receive emails from people or groups we could care less about. Sometimes we do so just to be nosy. I love being nosy, but I hate wasting time. Do yourself a favor and hide them, unfollow them, unsubscribe from them, and forget about them. There are more important things in your life.
Now let’s look at the news. Be it news news, tech news, fashion news or whatever else news, it all has to be streamlined. Generally, most related news companies publish the same news, so stick to your favorite company. If you’re adamant about hearing different opinions, then read a different paper each day of the week. If you’re still uneasy about this whole overhaul, try synthesizing all your sources into your Twitter feed. That way, you receive only the headlines, while finding everything in one place.
But what do we do about ye olde search engine? Be specific. Even the addition of another word helps tremendously. When I added “information” to my “orchids” search, the results more than halved to 11,800,000 results! To take things up a notch, virtually all search engines offer advanced searches, along with other options to hone in your topic of interest.
Similar approaches can be applied to television, and books. Most channels and books are grouped by some sort of related criteria. Each group then branches off into further and further specificity. Eventually, you’ll find the channel or book you were looking for. Personally, I first recommend scrapping most of those channels. Television these days is full of nonsense; nonsense that you would be better off without. Instead, get a book. And not just any book, but a book that reflects how you feel, or events you’re going through, or blossoming interests. Not only will this make the search that much simpler, but you’ll have at your disposal an opportunity to enrich or relieve some aspect of your life.
The best method, in my opinion, to dealing with information overload is to remember what’s most important to you. It is an inevitable fact that we will encounter more information in a day than has been produced in the past millennium. But when we remember the things that mean the most to us, we have the ability to intuitively tune into where those things are. Better yet, we disregard the things that would draw our attention away from those things that matter most. If we do this, I can guarantee that no matter how many articles, or channels, or books, or searches there are, we can find what we’re looking for.
Has anyone heard about The Tree of Life? What do you think about it? See you next week.