Data Overload: Reflection

“Information overload” is a term that was coined by Alvin Toffler, which refers to the excess amount of information that our generation receives due to various advances in technology. This excess of information can make it difficult for an individual to make decisions or comprehend issues.

We live in the 20th century, which is also known as the information age and the rise of the internet and other advances in computer technology such as search engines, features of mobile phones that provide constant/instant information feeds, and social media websites.

With the invention of search engines, we have access to virtually any information that we want to receive. We have instant access to news from various sources. When we want details about an individual or a news story that has just broken out, we can do a Google search and are instantly provided with large amounts of articles, online news publications, blogs, and various sources of information on the topic. Some of these sources are credible, while some might be biased or filled with mistakes. I have witnessed this aspect of the information overload taking effect on society and the lives of myself and those around me by causing us to make mistakes and incorrectly identify facts or sides to a story.

Another factor contributing to the information overload is the ease with which our generation can recreate and send information. We now have the ability to instantly recreate and send information through the use of email and the sharing of links to information on social media websites.

Facebook has gone even further in encouraging the information overload by creating a new feature where users are notified any time that one of their friends has read a certain news article online. For example, when I log into Facebook and view my news feed, I receive a notification that says “Paul Bauer just read an article called ‘Jersey Shore cast member reveals that she is pregnant’ on Yahoo! news”.  Facebook users have the options of sharing the articles that they read with their friends, and just by clicking on a news article online all of the individual’s friends are exposed to that article.

Another factor contributing to the information overload is the increase in channels that can communicate information to us. This includes the rise of emailing, RSS feeds, instant messaging, text messaging, and telephones. We live in a generation where individuals cannot live without having email access on their cell phones. People want their phones to vibrate every time that they receive a new tweet or have a new Facebook notification. I feel that this can be beneficial in some ways, while it can also be detrimental. It can be beneficial in the sense that we are able to work faster and achieve more when we are able to instantly communicate.

With the wide variety of channels that we can use to receive information, it is both difficult and overwhelming to keep up with the rapid rate at which we are receiving the information.  Receiving such a high volume/rapid rate of information through so many channels also takes away from the time that we are able to put into face-to-face communication.

What do you think? Is the information overload a genuine cause of concern for our generation, or just another concept that exaggerates the negative effects of new technology?

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