Information (Over)Consumption


Getting information off the Internet is like taking a drink from a fire hydrant. –Mitchell Kapor 

I’ve been involved in a few conversations this week where the idea of information consumption has come up. Not reading, nor viewing, but consuming vast quantities of information, with a voracity that maybe isn’t serving us well.

Many of us have been able to mitigate overconsumption in a material sense, to be fair, the discourse has been around much longer, and some may argue, the need more dire. But as people report a sense of chronic stress and overwhelm like never before, describing their lives as “sped up” or having “not enough downtime” and the like, I think we have to start wondering why.

If, like many of us, you find yourself often feeling as though you have too much going on, it’s possible that you are just too plugged in. A few short years ago, you didn’t glance at your phone at stoplights, you simply waited in line at the grocery store, your car wasn’t programmed to read texts and emails out loud to you as soon as you received them. Arguably, there was more peace, but certainly, more quiet. But the idea of being too plugged in isn’t new. We all understand the addictive effects of personalized technology, social media, etc. People self-govern by putting their phones away for prescribed times, out of reach in the car, not allowed in the bedroom, I even know someone who gave his partner a box to put their phone away in for their anniversary (I’ll leave it to you to decide if that was romantic). And yet, these efforts haven’t really permeated the way we are living our lives. We are driven to consume information, to find out more.

Another conversation led to me to realize that if all our time and space is occupied, we are left with no time or space for ourselves. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? But the frequency with which we use personal technology for something or other adds up. I certainly wouldn’t say we are wasting our time accessing the glut of information we do, but we are using the time. By filling each moment consuming information we are disrupting any chance of balance. We don’t need all of the stuff and we don’t need all of the information. But we do need our wellness. If you happen to be one of us who can’t seem to shake feeling overwhelmed, one of the simplest places to gain back time just may be through limiting how much information you are taking in.

I am the last person to rail against technology, but, these days, I am strongly being called to use it in a more intentional way. Even the thought of reducing the amount of information I am willing to be open to brings about a sense of peace. Minimalism for the mind. Sounds good to me.


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