Is Infobesity Curable?, By Adebayo Adeyinka Yusuf
Information overload concerns will continue and grow with the increase in Internet access by the world’s constantly growing population. ‘The Future’, which Toffler did not possibly capture, is that of video. With continued increase in bandwidth and reduction of Internet access cost, more people will move into video content production… The information overload at that point unsurprisingly will be more of what to keep on the to-watch list.
For the average young person who readily guzzles content from the online space, 24 hours is a long time to be away from an internet connected device. ‘Infobesity’ can also referred to as information excess or overload – a situation whereby excess information is taken in by the human brain that processing it or having full comprehension becomes an issue. Alvin Toffler, futurist and author of Future Shock, was the first to mention this term.
Information excess is also about information presentation at a rate too fast for a person to process. Information overload is a bigger subject than it was in 1970 when Toffler first hinted at the condition. It is more pronounced today given various technological applications designed by man. Examples are Snapchat, Whatsapp, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and some of the apps that most of our telephones carry.
A narrative in part will suffice. Your telephone chimes and it is a text message from a news alert you subscribed to and paid for. You hear another sound and it is a message form your service provider introducing you to a new tariff plan. Your Whatsapp alerts you that 54 new messages have just dropped in from your friends and group chats that you belong to – all these almost in quick succession. While you are still checking these, a telephone call comes in and you are on the telephone for 13 minutes discussing an assignment due next week. Also, while at this, you have someone’s call waiting for your attention. Your Facebook notification alert also drops on your tablet, alongside three new mentions on Twitter, issuing from your earlier tweet in the day.
That is not all, your television screen is on mute because you are communicating on the telephone. The news ticker slides across informing you of breaking news happening in your country. The screen is also shared into two to allow one see another frame for news analysis by an expert. Then, you are done on the telephone and your laptop is waiting for you to finish the mail you were typing some hours back. You remember the link your colleague asked you to check out. You try to locate it among the 91 tabs you have opened with the thought to read them all later. Your system seems to be hanging and then you realise you have been multi-tasking and subsequently stand up to get a cup of tea. Of course it is a Saturday morning and you still have a lot to do. There is the proposal from your work, of which your department is relaying the final touches to you, while you still need to check up some information to spruce up the document. Information overflow and load do not get any better than this.
Other researched approaches to dealing with information overload problems include preparing materials for jobs in advance. The batching of similar online tasks together helps in managing time and task. The ultimate approach is disconnecting (especially mobile data) from the Internet for some hours during the day…
The Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research earlier this year explained that, “A full 90 percent of all the data in world have been generated over the last two years.” The figures are also overwhelming. Google currently receives over three billion queries per day, massing up to 90 billion queries per month and then 1.1 trillion searches per year. Add this to the figure of content from the several social media and we will have a behemoth in terms on number.
A few tips from experts can serve as a way out of the challenges that come from information overload. Setting online goals on a daily basis solves a lot of problems. The Internet in its simplest form is like country with several streets and many activities/distractions. This helps to put one in check, otherwise there is the temptation of spending the day moving from one blog to another, answering emails and other new media-related activities, with nothing productive to show for the day. There is also the need to organise one’s social media accounts using filters. Lists on Twitter, Facebook filters, RSS and circules on Google+ are means to achieve organisation to the ceaseless drift of information that comes through them. Being selective on feeds to follow, website to read and blogs to trail also serve the same purpose, while new ones justifiably sneak in occasionally.
Other researched approaches to dealing with information overload problems include preparing materials for jobs in advance. The batching of similar online tasks together helps in managing time and task. The ultimate approach is disconnecting (especially mobile data) from the Internet for some hours during the day and when back with connection, initiating communication around one’s schedule, instead of others.
There is also the concept of immersion propounded by Bill Gates. It entails setting aside a specific time to dig into accumulated links, articles and any other things of cyber interest. Information overload concerns will continue and grow with the increase in Internet access by the world’s constantly growing population. ‘The Future’, which Toffler did not possibly capture, is that of video. With continued increase in bandwidth and reduction of Internet access cost, more people will move into video content production using their smart phones and other mobile gadgets. The information overload at that point unsurprisingly will be more of what to keep on the to-watch list.
Battling information excess is indeed possible.
Adebayo Adeyinka Yusuf is a journalist and a serving corps member in the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja.