Up Front Communication

Helping people and businesses through the art of communication

Information Overload

Let’s start off this post with a quick apology to you, reader, for the gap in entries this last week.  I was somewhat indisposed, being at the hospital with my husband in order to bring this lovely little bundle into the world:

My new son, all of seven and a half hours old

All three of us are doing extremely well. I am healing nicely, my husband has melded into the role of Dad magnificently, and my baby boy is healthy, calm, alert, and an utter joy!

Going through pregnancy for the first time gave me an interesting look into the trap of information overloading.  The anxieties, concerns, and delights of pregnancy and impending motherhood sent me to the internet again and again in order to dig up whatever I could on my Issue du Jour.  Regardless the circumstance, question, or worry, there was always a glut of information to be found.  Expert advice, personal stories, agenda-heavy tirades, and woefully out-of-touch recommendations – seek and ye shall find.  It doesn’t seem to matter if you are looking into a complicated matter like pregnancy or a relatively simple thing like sprained ankles.  Every Google query will create hundreds of results, many conflicting, many misleading, some highly worthwhile.

This sort of information deluge can often have a result opposite of what we wanted: uncertainty instead of answers, increased anxiety instead of reassurance.  A quest for answers becomes a rather arduous journey of info and source evaluation.  If you are feeling particularly lost or vulnerable about an issue, this can set you on a treadmill of info seeking, info seeking, info seeking without ever finding an answer satisfactory to your needs.

When the number of websites and articles on any given topic is seemingly endless, it is very easy to become overloaded and overwhelmed with information.

This is something I personally struggle with; being a methodical researcher who is naturally curious with a penchant for fact-checking, information overload can become quite problematic.  This is also the case for many of my colleagues and friends.  Eventually, you need to get off the info treadmill, if for no other reason than to reclaim the time spent surfing the internet and hopefully regain a bit of sanity.  At one point, I needed to completely forgo searching for anything related to pregnancy and motherhood.  The number of viciously judgmental web pages, internet flame-fests, brutally misinformed articles from “reputable” sites, and general “mommy war” type crap was beginning to enrage me at their mere suggestion.  Yet I would still keep looking at them, on topics ranging from pre-natal exercise to newborn sleep patterns.  Eventually, I had to cut myself off.  After a couple days of struggling not to slide back into the habit of looking at “just a few” search results, I was much happier.

I don’t have much in the way of advice for backing away from needless internet searches.  I found that I have to go cold turkey for a couple of days when I begin spinning my wheels with an info overload topic.  Some of my friends have used timing techniques, only allowing themselves fifteen minutes for looking into any single topic. Others may find that limiting the number of search results they are allowed to click on helps.  It may take you several tries to find a method that works for you.  Resetting this habit is a wonderful thing, though – as I said, it turns the world back into a much saner place.

Have you ever subjected yourself to information overload by endlessly searching a given topic?  If this was a habit of yours, how did you break it?