Surviving the infotoxication

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Surviving the information overload

You may be reading this post because you’ve stumbled across this site. Because someone had retweeted it. Or because the title sounded interesting. Whatever your reason, you’ve decided (dare I say you’re still deciding) to invest a little of your time in it. I want to be honest: this is not a self-help article that will help you to reduce a complex problem into a simple formula. If it did, I would have given it a more promising title like “How to survive the infoxication” or “Five tips for surviving the infoxication.” These lines are no more than an attempt to share a frustration: the excess of information that surrounds us.

In the age of information overload, trying to absorb and assimilate all the interesting data around me seems frustrating (while I write this, the news is on in the background, my tablet is chocked with things to read and the timeline spits out the terms ‘king’ and ‘elephant’ at a dizzying rate).

I read so much that I don’t have time to think about what I’m reading, and least of all, apply it in my business.

The Internet has only heightened our lack of attention span. Today a child in China with a smartphone has access to more and better information that the President of the United States 20 years ago. However, that doesn’t make him more intelligent, just more informed, because information is not knowledge, just like a grape is not wine. In order for that information to become knowledge, it has been processed and let mature. Give attention to everything that interests you is like holding sand in your hand: the tighter you clench your fist, the greater the sensation that you’re loosing the greatest part.

We live in multi-tasking mode, we want to be hyper-connected and we demand to know everything in real time. So much so that we’ve reduced the concept of news to headlines of 140 characters that overlap and expire instantly. I read somewhere, I don’t remember where, that this obsession for immediacy will bring about the disappearance of the present: without the present, everything is past or future.

All this worries me and stimulates me at the same time, and leaves me with nothing but questions: How do we distinguish between the information that brings us value from that that wastes our time? How do we manage our limited attention span? How do we calm that unquenchable thirst for information? How do we digest the overdose? And more importantly: How do we recover the present?

Joan Alvares is founding partner of Poko and lecturer at Istituto Europeo di Design