Information overload? Nahhh…Now What Was I Doing?

Well, as I was firing up the good ‘ol electronic notepad to scribble something down suitable for posting, I happened across a post regarding almost the same topic; located here. Now the author’s post focuses on how technology affects out interactions, especially in the class room. It’s interesting, and does tie into my post, of how information overload affects concentration.

This is not especially scientific, more an observation of interactions.

Growing up, I had access to a computer which by today’s standards is barely more than a calculator. However, it played oregon trail, and that is all I wanted as a little kid. The next computer I had access too was able to play a number of other games, but my primary entertainment was still a classic: playing outside.

Look! Kids are in there!

This kind of nonsense

Yup. Running through the neighborhood with other kids, climbing trees, riding bikes, the stuff that kids are supposed to do in the ideal childhood.

Fast-forward about 16 years. I’m working to help fund my college costs, and almost every other table of people I take has kids along for the ride. Mom and Dad want a quiet dinner, so what is the child doing? Mobile phone, ipod touch, iphone, gameboy, psp. Basically, something with a screen. I look at these kids thinking, “I’d was never allowed to do that when I was a kid.” But, however string my disapproval, these people are providing my paycheck, so I go about my business.

Now this year, apple unleashes the ipad.

It pops out golden eggs too

Techies, bow before your current master!

The magical item of media consumerism descended upon us and made our already distracted lives even more separate. Now you could have close to a full size screen to find your media on the go. Music, movies, games, all the time. Though twitter was bad before? Think again, it’s everywhere now.

Now, fast forward to two days ago. I am sitting in front of my computer, pondering what to write about. I take a look at my screen and this is what I see:

That is an exact screen shot of what I was viewing at the time. Let me break it down for those that are confused. Left side of the screen is the streaming coverage of E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo), via youtube. The biggest event in gaming of the year, via streaming webcast. Top right of the screen – the world cup. South Africa vs Uruguay, via ESPN3. Bottom right is spaz, a client for Twitter, and in the middle is a program called Adium, a chat client which links AIM, Google Chat, Facebook Chat, and MSN messenger all into one interface.

Fantastic. I think I now realize why I can’t read more than 100 pages of a book at a time, or why I can’t focus on my research for extended periods of time. Well, up above lays the answer. I spend much of my day focusing on so many different information feeds that I am used to finding information in 5-second bursts. It’s great for flash-learning, but it is indeed bad for extended analysis and understanding.

Right now I am working on reversing the process, reading more, spending more time outside, exercising, and focusing on reading and learning only those things that I am interested in.

The author of the post I mentioned at the beginning ends his article with this:

If re-wiring the brain and addiction to high-tech gadgets are rhetorical overkill–even hype–and the word “dependency” is more appropriate as technology continues to shape our daily habits for both good and ill, then perhaps it is time to ask publicly whether the school should be a willing, even eager, partner in deepening that dependency on gadgets with screens.

I would extend his question to society at large. And, as much as I love new tech and gadgets ( and I am a neophile), I would support his point. At some point, unless we can learn to function at a deeper level of analysis when faced with information bombardment, there is a point where it becomes too much and we stop functioning as a society and start functioning as individuals reliant on a constant flow of bits we have no connection to, or in the case of facebook, bits we have connections too, at the expense of making new connections.

When we hit this point, it might be time for us to step back from the screen, step outdoors, and reconnect (or ‘friend’ if you will) or neighbors, the people on the bus next to us, or the person in the cubicle next door. It may be for the better.

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One Response to Information overload? Nahhh…Now What Was I Doing?

  1. LJF says:

    Awesome. That’s all I can really say. I have gone so far as to turn off my internet connection, though I really only did that to save money.

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