Too Much Information? How to Avoid Information Overload

Nov 11, 2019

Author: 

Pavel Khoroschutin

 

“Who knows how to free your head from unnecessary information? I get  terribly tired. Every day, classes first, then I meet with friends and share news. At home I’m trying to relax – I scroll my social media feed or watch YouTube, but my parents always watch TV, continuous blah-blah-blah. My head throbs, I can’t fall asleep in the evening, thoughts, fragments of phrases, some facts are all 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 worrying about it. And one can’t refuse the news, as I must be aware of what is happening around”.

– Artem, 19

The overabundance of information has been discussed for a long time. The term “information overload” first 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]

 

Life in a modern civilized society provides possibly the most favorable conditions for receiving information overload. The Internet plays an important role here. So what is the danger of information oversupply? How do we understand whether it affects our lives? Can it be avoided?

Contents:

Information overload – a 21st century disease

Causes of information overload

Favorable conditions for the continuous overabundance of information

Signs and consequences of an overabundance of information

Danger of information overload in children and teenagers

 

How to get rid of information overload

Information overload – a 21st century disease

The overabundance of information in the modern world is a result of the technological progress. We now have 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, politics, cooking, literature, cinema, medicine, technology. And if we don’t know something or are unsure how to do something, we run the risk of condemnation from society or just get ourselves into an awkward position. Well, how come they gave birth to children? You do not know what to do with a pimple on the right foot? After all, you can easily google it!

 

And we do carefully google. How do snakes give birth?  What happened yesterday in the world? Why does hair fall out? How can you distinguish fake goods? etc. 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 and conversations. As a result, there is so much information that the brain simply does not have time to absorb and process it. Consequently information overload occurs. Let’s take a closer look at what causes its occurrence.

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 need 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, ‘relaxing’ by reading news or scanning through a feed on social media.

4. We do not know how to organize the work process, and separate it from our personal lives.

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 and YouTube launches the next video. News sites make selections based on our interests. Everything is created to focus on us and keep our attention. The abundance of information transmission channels also plays a role. Radio, television, banners, signs, numerous messengers, applications, sites – such a great diversity makes a person vulnerable to information overload. [2]

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

Signs and consequences of an overabundance of information

1. A person only partially remembers the information received or simply 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 any to an end.

4. Due to constant distractions it is difficult to work and repeated 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 move in any direction from the dead point.

6. A person becomes irritable, quickly gets tired, and does not feel rested even at 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, the person is in a state of continuous stress.

 

8. An individual constantly seeks to receive new information, repeatedly checking mail or social media, and 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 outset, they are engaged in a bunch of “developers” and activities, and 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, the preparation for school-leaving and college entrance exams, then study at the university. The student’s load on ordinary days is about 12 hours, and if you add another 3-4 hours on the Internet, it turns out that they are staying in the information stream almost around the clock. This leads to nervous tension, self-dissatisfaction, guilt, and increased irritability. [4]

 

But sometimes children do not suffer from information overload themselves, but through parents who have the illusion of the accessibility and accuracy of any necessary information. So, adults can make wrong decisions based on incorrect 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, precious time was lost, and the baby died.

How to get rid of information overload

How can you cope with information overload and avoid negative consequences?

First step. Identify the sources of congestion. It can be studying (many tasks, a lot to read), work (a lot of letters, the 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 as part of your schedule. Try to work or receive information only at the allotted time. Do not try to do all the work at once – very few people are equipped 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 up a lot of your time and are of little benefit. For example, do not visit news sites if you know they are addictive. Turn off notifications about new videos or posts. Set a timer to alert you when it’s time to close the browser. If you just can’t stop visiting interesting but useless sites, then block them.

Fourth step. Rest and recover. Some people think the weekend is for wimps. This is a delusion. For effective work and life, it is vital to have a good quality rest. This works along the[CR1]  same principle as in sports. If you want to increase your efficiency, fully recover between workouts. And by the way, staying on social media and surfing news feeds is not a vacation. You will still keep getting a bunch of useless information.

Fifth step. Form good habits. Often, the Internet is a replacement for a lack of something in real life. We play to have fun. We communicate on forums to compensate for a deficit of real communication. We stay on entertainment sites to distract ourselves from troubles. But such a downshifting from reality is not the most beneficial thing. Firstly, problems cannot be solved like that. And secondly, a sedentary lifestyle and permanent stress are harmful to your health. Pay attention to what exactly is overloading you and figure out which behavior would be more effective in your 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 those letters for a while? Yes, basically they are not urgent. I can turn off pop-up alerts, and then I will not be distracted. If something urgent happens, they will call me. I will read the letters after I complete the current task.

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

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

Of course, to learn not to suffer from an excess of information, efforts will be required, because you have already developed the habit of succumbing to this endless flow. But any behavior can be changed. We are not born with our 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.

Information from this website cannot be used for self-therapy and self-diagnostics. 

Institute of Distance Psychology Pte .Ltd UEN 201834385M 4 Battery Road, #25-01 Bank of Chaina Building Singapore 049908.

LLC Tekhnologii Ideala, Center for Research Psychology 

TIN 5406976032 / PSRN 1175476058801

+7 (800) 550-99-36

+7 (658) -671-95-25

info_sg@7spsy.com