5 Ways to Overcome Information Overload Today
Cell phones are a way of life
Have you ever thought about how many times a day you check your cell phone because of notifications that you have set on your phone, or just because you are curious if any new information about a current event has been disseminated?
What is your emotional reaction when you realize you left your cell phone at home and you cannot go back home to retrieve the device? Cell phones are like pacifiers for adults and adolescents. Instead of wailing like infants do when they don’t have their “binkey,” we have a wash of anxiety and terror run through our bodies just like the experience we have when we lose or misplace our wallet. This anxiety surrounding a forgotten cell phone might include thoughts like:
“How are my kids going to get ahold of me?”
“I’m going to miss out on new Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc. posts!”
“How will I know what is going on in the world?”
We’re living in a FOMO world
These examples of anxiety-based questions illustrate the phenomenon of FOMO (fear of missing out). FOMO is a result of how accustomed we are to having practically all information at our fingertips. Having this much information can be a good thing – but it can also a bad thing.
The positive and negative of having information always available
When we, as humans, do not have enough information we cannot make well-informed decisions, so having information available to us can be a good thing.
On the other hand, having too much information can produce the same result, called analysis paralysis – a bad thing.
For instance, have you ever experienced a time when you could not make a decision to buy a certain item because there were too many to choose from? So, you go online to read the reviews to help you decide, but find that you are more confused about which one to buy. This is information overload.
Information overload is defined as having too much information, so much information that our brains cannot process it all at one time. It is said that the amount of information we humans are exposed to has significantly increased at a faster rate than our brains are evolving. Essentially, it is like expecting a Ford Pinto to win a race against a Porsche. (This may be an exaggeration, but you get the point.)
How to overcome information overload
So, what are we to do? How do we combat against something that has become the norm in our society? There are solutions to this, but we will have to overcome some of the habits we have, in part, by removing assumptions and allowing ourselves permission to be “off the grid” (even when “off” for small increments of time).
1.) Go through your cell phone and delete all the applications that are not necessary for daily use. This is like de-cluttering your desk at work.
2.) Reduce the amount of notifications you receive on your cell phone. We don’t need to be notified every time our best friend posts something on Facebook. Decreasing the amount of interruptions to our day will help us be more productive. It takes about 23 minutes to get back to our performance level we were at after being interrupted.
3.) Unsubscribe from needless emails. These are the emails that you get on a daily basis from a store, business, etc. that notify you of a sale or special they are running.
4.) Allow yourself to check your cell phone only a specified number of times each day.
5.) Take one day a week, where you do not follow current events. If you are brave enough, do not search the web or emails that entire day.
These are just a handful of ideas to help reduce the amount of information we take in on a daily basis.
If you have other ways of reducing the amount of information intake, please, comment below – we can learn from each other. Remember, change can be difficult, but if you take time to really think about it, wouldn’t you feel silly knowing you had developed separation anxiety from your cell phone?
These blogs were written by members of the CHI Health Behavioral Care team.