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Information is never too much? How to avoid information overload

11.11.2019 Author: psiholog pavel horoshutin

“Who knows how to free your head from unnecessary information? I get tired terribly. Every day, classes first, then we meet with friends and share news. At home I’m trying to relax – I scroll the social media feed or watch YouTube, but my parents always watch TV, continuous bla-bla-bla. My head swells, I can’t fall asleep in the evening, thoughts, fragments of phrases, some facts are flickering. I just have an overabundance of information in my head. And if something bad has happened, I can toss and turn in bed until the morning and think about it. And one can’t refuse the news, as I must be aware of what is happening around”.

– Artem, 19

They have been talking about overabundance of information for a long time. The term “information overload” appeared in 1964, but as early as 3-4 years BC Ecclesiastes in the Old Testament warned that there was no need to strive to read all books, because “there will be no end; and reading a lot is tiring for the flesh”. [1]

But, probably, life in a modern civilized society is the most favorable soil for receiving information overload. The Internet plays an important role here. So what is the danger of information oversupply? How to understand whether it affects our lives? Can it be avoided?

Contents:

Information overload – a 21st century disease

consequences of information overload

Overabundance of information in the modern world is the result of the technological progress. We got the opportunity to quickly and easily find almost any information. This creates the illusion that we must understand many things at the same time – psychology, parenting and feeding of children, politics, cooking, literature, cinema, medicine, technology. And if we don’t know something or don’t know how to do something, we run the risk of condemnation from society or just get into an awkward position. Well, how come, they gave birth to children, do not know what to do with a pimple on the right foot? After all, you can easily google!

And we carefully google: how snakes give births, what happened yesterday in the world, why hair falls out, how to distinguish fake bags, etc. In addition, we strive to keep abreast of global trends and constantly monitor friends’ posts on the social media. In the background we also hear music, advertisements, snippets of shows, conversations. As a result, there is so much information that the brain simply does not have time to absorb and process it. As a result, information overload occurs. Let’s take a closer look at what causes its occurrence.

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Causes of information overload

  1. We strive to be specialists in many, often distant, fields.
  2. At the same time, we face many diverse tasks, and in order to solve them, we have to constantly look for information.
  3. We do not know how to rest and recover, often replacing these processes with the absorption of new information, for example, reading news or scanning through a feed on social media to relax.
  4. We do not know how to organize the work process and separate it from personal life.
  5. We get used to having fun without putting much effort into it – just swipe your finger on the smartphone screen or click the mouse.

In addition to the reasons that are caused by our behavior, there are some external conditions that cannot always be influenced.

Favorable conditions for continuous overabundance of information

Sometimes, information finds us. We are forced to listen to or look at advertisements in public places, social media carefully share news feeds to us, YouTube launches the next video, news sites make selections based on our interests. Everything is created in order to keep us and our attention. The abundance of information transmission channels also plays a role. Radio, television, banners, signs, numerous messengers, applications, sites – this diversity makes a person vulnerable to information overload. [2]

Of course, not all information is obtained this way. One can learn new things and control the load. But there are some signs indicating that the brain is overloaded with information.

Signs and consequences of overabundance of information

Information overload

1.    A person poorly remembers the information received or simply partially does not notice it.

2.    It becomes difficult to make decisions, because there is too much information or it is contradictory.

3.    It is difficult to focus on one thing for a long time, a person multitasks with different things, but does not bring them to the end.

4.    Due to constant distractions it is difficult to work, constant switching reduces the quality and speed of work. This affects the feeling of self-efficacy and can reduce self-esteem.

5.    There is a feeling of hopelessness or despair as much needs to be done or finished, but you can’t get in any way from the dead point.

6.    A person becomes irritable, quickly gets tired, does not feel rested even on weekends or on vacation.

7.    There is a background feeling of anxiety, fear, difficulty with falling asleep, tension and stiffness in the body. In fact, a person is in a state of continuous stress.

8.    A person seeks to receive new information, constantly checking mail or social media, feels uncomfortable when this is not possible. [3]

Danger of information overload in children and teenagers

Not only adults, but also children suffer from information overload. Often, from the very birth, they are engaged in a bunch of “developers” and activities, as a result, by the first grade, a child can combine studies and 3-4 activities. Naturally, this also leads to an overabundance of information received, poor health and continuous fatigue.

Teenagers also have a hard time. First, preparation for school-leaving and college entrance exams, then study at the university. The students load on ordinary days is about 12 hours, and if you add another 3-4 hours on the Internet, it turns out that students are staying in the information stream almost around the clock. This leads to nervous tension, self-dissatisfaction, guilt, increased irritability. [4]

But sometimes children do not suffer from information overload themselves, but through parents who have the illusion of the accessibility of any necessary information. So, adults can make wrong decisions based on inaccurate data from the Internet. There is a known case when a mother with a baby who had pneumonia turned to the Internet in search of treatment but not to the doctors. As a result, the precious time was lost, and the baby died.

How to get rid of information overload

how to avoid information overload

How to cope with information overload and avoid negative consequences?

First step. Identify sources of congestion. It can be studying (many tasks, a lot to read), work (a lot of letters, need to monitor novelties, calls outside working hours), surfing the Internet (endless news feed, entertainment portals, communication on forums).

Second step. Plan. Allocate time for information (work) and time for rest in your schedule. Try to work or receive information only at the scheduled time. Do not try to do all the work at once – very few are available for true multitasking. Set priorities and do everything gradually.

Third step. Get on an informational diet. Set up discharge hours or even days. Read only what is in your area of interest. Use only the most useful sources. Eliminate those that take you a lot of time and do not benefit. For example, do not go visit news sites if you know that you cannot stop. Turn off notifications about new videos or posts. Set a timer to let you know it’s time to close the browser. If you can’t just stop visiting interesting and useless sites, block them.

Fourth step. Rest and recover. Some people think the weekend is for wimps. It’s a delusion. For effective work and life, it is very important to have a good quality rest. It works the same principle as in sports. If you want to increase your efficiency, fully recover between workouts. And by the way, staying in social media and paging news feeds is not a vacation. You still keep getting a bunch of useless information.

Fifth step. Form good habits. Often we replace with the Internet a lack of something in real life. We play to have fun. We communicate on forums to compensate for the lack of real communication. We stay on entertainment sites to distract ourselves from troubles. But such a downshifting from reality is not the most useful thing. First of all, problems cannot be solved like that. And secondly, a sedentary lifestyle and permanent stress are harmful to health. Pay attention to what exactly is overloading you, and figure out which behavior would be more effective in this case. Here is an example:

 
At work, I am constantly distracted by reading letters, they knock me down, then it is difficult for me to return to work. Because of this, I often check social media – it’s easier than focusing on the task again.Can I not be distracted and postpone reading letters for a while? Yes, basically these are not urgent letters. I can turn off pop-up alerts, and then I will not be distracted. If something urgent happens, they’ll call me. I will read the letters after I complete the current task.

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Such a program could be the 7Spsy behavior modification technique. This is a patented method of behavioral psychology, based on the theories of I.P. Pavlov, B.F. Skinner, A.A. Ukhtomsky and others. If you do not know how to approach your habits, you can use the help of a specialist. This can be achieved via visiting a psychologist or a distance program aimed at changing the behavior that interferes with you.

With this course, you can change your habits that lead to information overload, and get rid of many time sinks. After 1.5 months, you will completely control the information flow around you, learn to say “stop” to useless and unnecessary information. This will allow not only to feel much better, but also devote more time to rest, family and your hobbies.

The course is remote, it can be taken at any time convenient for you at home. A personal psychologist will help you achieve high-quality results, answer all questions over the phone, in online messengers or by e-mail.

Of course, to learn not to suffer from a variety of information, efforts will be required, because you have already developed the habit of succumbing to this flow, drowning in it, perceiving without sorting. But any behavior can be changed. We are not born with any habits. We acquire them as we grow up. And if some of them interfere with life, we can change them. The main thing is to find the right technique and be patient and supportive.

References:

1.  Ekkleziast (http://nev-tanah.info/hetuvim/megilot/kohelet/kgl-12/).

2.  Usloviia polucheniia pereizbytka informatsii (https://cyberleninka.ru/article/v/internet-zavisimoe-povedenie-i-peregruzka-informatsiey).

3.  Priznaki pereizbytka informatsii (https://elibrary.ru/item.asp).

4.  Informatsionnye peregruzki u studentov (https://cyberleninka.ru/article/v/informatsionnye-peregruzki-kak-faktor-stressa-studentov-vuzov).