It’s been said that too much of even a good thing can be bad; and I tend to agree as information overload is weighing me down these days. It’s affecting virtually every aspect of my life. From job hunting and healthy living to improving my professional skills and simply trying to read the news. All the above is happening right in the palm of my hand on my smartphone. This miniscule device has the power to provide me with endless information and yet, it rarely seems to stick. Oftentimes my reading turns into a whirlwind of clicks moving from one hyperlink to the next, never able to finish what I started. The worst part is that this unlimited access to knowledge seems to be negatively impacting my ability to form an educated opinion. These days my motto is “I don’t effin know!”.
After giving birth to my first child, the internet quickly became my best friend – and my worst enemy. Entering uncharted territory with virtually no preparation left me feeling ignorant and incapable. And so, I turned to Google to answer all my questions. I typed queries like How long should an infant breastfeed? How many diapers should a baby be wetting each day? And Should I sleep train? With over 1.8MM results generated from the latter, you can imagine the depth to which this excess supply of information caused a swirling vortex of emotions.
The inability to process so much information, much of which was contradictory in nature, kept me locked in a constant state of confusion. Thankfully, after my second child I put the phone down and allowed intuition to guide me. When the nurse visited my home a few days after leaving the hospital, I did not accept the one-page document she offered outlining the ideal frequency and consistency of infant bowel movements. I simply informed her that I’d let gut feeling dictate my actions. Needless to say, baby number two was a much less stressful experience. My gut did right by me.
While I rely less on Google for parenting advice, these days my LinkedIn account has become a huge cause for concern. As a marketer whose field has drastically changed over the last decade, I’m constantly bombarded with advertising tooting the benefits of the latest marketing technology. The massive amount of data coming from new and innovative martech claiming to unlock insights or increase efficiency has me feeling a little overwhelmed.
On the opposite side of the coin, you have the “gurus” and “award winning experts” claiming that our dependency and overuse of tech often causes us to miss what’s right in front of us. At the risk of sounding old and averse to technology, I tend to agree. Coming from a world where we’re constantly evaluating the next best thing while underutilizing our existing tech stack, often drives me to conventional practices like picking up the phone and calling a super happy or unhappy client.
Insights gained through those types of conversations have allowed me to frame content that resonates and develop strategies that actually work. And now, as I comb through job postings with bullet points requesting candidates have experience with this automation software or that content creation tool, I’m forced to wonder whether good old fashioned creativity, capacity and intelligence has a place in this artificially intelligent world?
Beyond just the resources and energy required to process excess information, technology seems to be affecting my focus and decision-making skills. As Daniel J. Levitan writes in his article Why the modern world is bad for your brain, trying to figure out what you need to know and what you can ignore is exhausting. With so much content flooding our feeds, how can one possibly distinguish fact from fiction and opinion? Simultaneously, I’m trying to prioritize tasks that bring the most reward. Do I continue reading this article or click to the next one? Should I continue writing this article or stop to answer an email? Maybe I should do both since technology has facilitated multitasking…or has it?
Although many of us have been falsely led to believe that technology has given us the power to do more at the same time, research now shows that all we’re really doing is rapidly shifting our focus from one task to another. Essentially, we’ve reduced efficiency and increased anxiety with constant disruptions leaving behind a path of unfinished to dos. To add insult to injury, people who regularly multitask are apparently the worst at ignoring irrelevant information and have poorer short-term memory. In fact, some studies have shown that the cognitive losses from multitasking are even greater than the cognitive losses from pot smoking (Wait, what!?!?!). It’s no wonder I can never find my car keys.
Frankly I could go on and on regarding the correlation between my foggy brain and the number of tabs open in my browser but, what I really need to do right now is take a hard tech break. Step away from everything from checking social media, to email and reading an article online. This week I’m just going to spend time learning the piano and reading an actual book while switching my phone to do not disturb. Who knows, maybe I’ll even get a landline (Google it) and practice some longer-term digital abstinence.