11 July 2012

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Information overload! Can we do with cutting back on the clicking?

Have you ever thought of an information diet? The idea of “information overload” was first devised in the 70’s by Alvin Toffler to describe what happens to someone when there is too much information on a subject, especially when they have to form an opinion or make a decision based on that information. Isn’t that what we are currently experiencing on a day-to-day basis? We can access information easily, everywhere, using cell phones, laptops, TV’s and so forth.

Social media and the rise of user-edited information on the internet (think Wikipedia) has made sharing opinions and facts easy, but also unreliable. At the best of times, you can’t believe everything you read online. At the worst, people spread rumours and unchecked facts that can be detrimental. We tend to believe what fits into our set of morals and our way of thinking. Whether there is any point or value to these exchanges online is a different question. Are we all just in it for laughs? To share with our friends? To gain a feeling of self-importance by looking at our online presence? Ten notifications, six retweets, twenty likes! I must be really relevant today!

Who doesn't want to be relevant? We don’t want our friends to forget about us! On the other hand, virtual socializing has the way of bringing out the best and worst in people. You can get really annoyed with someone by the way they handle their Facebook, the things they tweet and so on, but is it a true representation of the person’s character?

On the other hand, social networking can connect people who wouldn’t have met otherwise and it can even inspire, get you a job, a loan, a partner or the house you’re looking for. Just by venturing in the virtual “towns” we create where things sometimes find us when we need them most. The idea of going on an information diet is taking a step back from always being in the virtual world and connecting with people on a face-to-face level that is probably less annoying and certainly more fun.

We can get addicted to the information we find online and end up always searching for the next most-amusing thing. But what if you counted all the hours you spend in a day using technology and thought of what ELSE you could be doing with that time. We tend to lose track of where we are and what else we can do when we are online. It can also affect your work, relationships and even your health, because you have found a safe place where little effort and responsibility is required and all your whims are catered to.

Can this make us more unsatisfied with our lives? It certainly seems so. Balance is necessary in all things in life and we need it to adjust to any situation. The more flexible you are, the more content you will be. The more you work at changing what bothers you, the more you will be rewarded. Most of the time, this involves scaling down and not getting more of something. Also, think of the money you’ll save if you didn’t want all the new gadgets on the market.

I read this quote today and I've experienced the wisdom behind it, how cutting back can enrich your life, and it made me think of other areas in my life where I can cut back to gain more. Time spent using technology is definitely one of them since I use it for work all day, I need an escape at night and my new resolution is to avoid hanging onto my laptop every second I’m at home.
"The transformation of consciousness undertaken in Taoism and Zen is more like the correction of faulty perception or the curing of a disease. It is not an acquisitive process of learning more and more facts or greater and greater skills, but rather than unlearning of wrong habits and opinions. As Lao-tzu said, ‘The scholar gains every day, but the Taoist loses every day."
Alan Watts, The Joyous Cosmology


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