Information Overload

After signing up for Note to Self’s Infomagical challenge, I found myself reflecting on how obsessive I’ve become about information overload.

One of the biggest lessons I took away from my time at the University of Washington’s Information School is that the primary information challenge of our time is not gathering information, but being smart about finding the right information and figuring out which information is the most important.

During college, I worked as a social media manager and was basically connected for all of my waking hours. When I graduated, I worked in tech and attempted to keep up with the world through a multitude of RSS feeds and constantly checking Twitter — I felt an unexplainable pressure to keep up with everything going on.

It was overwhelming.

It got to the point where I had trouble sleeping and experienced a strange, uncontrollable anxiety. You could think of it as a sort of FOMO for what’s happening online.

In August 2014, I decided to go one full year without internet at home. (you can read more about that here). At the same time, I significantly limited the information coming at me by substantially reducing the number of people I followed on all channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube) and turned off just about every push notification on my phone outside of calls and texts.

The year that followed was one of the best years I’ve had in terms of mental health. My sleep noticeably improved and overall my mind just seemed to work so much better.

That experience really showed me the importance of being intentional with managing information — by cutting out the noise of information that wasn’t useful (facts about Donald Trumps hair, the Kardashians’ most recent stunt), I was able to better hone in on the information that did matter (how my family is doing).

The internet is infinite; our minds are not. If you are feeling overwhelmed by information, I’d highly recommend figuring out what to cut out or at least which areas you can reduce. Some easy places to start:

  • Limiting time online and replacing it with an offline activity (reading a physical book, cooking, etc)
  • Reducing push notifications on your phone
  • Reducing the number of people you follow on social media so that, when you do go on social media, there’s less vying for your attention