Created by WS-71, 2015

Information Overload

Our modern society is characterized by the influence of different media types. People do not check their messages and news on a daily or hourly basis – many people check them every minute while using their PC, smartphone or tablet. Even employees, whose jobs consist of analyzing or the further processing of e.g. gathered articles, data or interviews suffer in some cases from the flood of information. Especially the usual media user is confronted with an overwhelming amount of probably totally useless information using social media, TV and the internet. Social media like Facebook and twitter occupies a more and more important place in the daily life of the information society we live in nowadays.

Regarding to Cambridge Dictionaries Online, information overload is “a situation in which you receive too much information at one time and cannot think about it in a clear way.” To see that there is an information overload, I would like to present various situations in which one has to cope with a mass of information.

Everyone who searches for example for a certain topic or product, at first just has to take a look at the possibilities one has in order to receive the information needed. The fastest way is usually the use of the internet. But beside the speed of finding a possible answer regarding a certain question, there is just the huge amount of results. Mostly only a small amount of these results is really useful and fits directly to the asked question. If one for example searches for “information overload” on Google, one gets 12,100,000 results. In reality, it is just impossible to check all these suggested sites by reading each of them. So the question appears, if all these information is really needed. Of course, to some people certain sources are more useful than to others and therefore can help to solve a problem. But in general many users who receive that amount of sources are at first totally overwhelmed by the choices.

Besides the active searching for certain issues there are, especially regarding to the current use of social media, services like Facebook and twitter to mention. These services are somehow passive, but nevertheless influence our daily life in a significant extent. By having hundreds of friends on Facebook as well as hundreds of following sites on twitter, a user receives up to thousands of messages, posts and tweets. Just like the search results of Google, there is always a huge quota of tweets etc. which contain a rather futile text or picture, but due to the fact that one is following a (prominent) person, one is just receiving an unfiltered mass of tweets. It seems to be some kind of satisfaction (of fans), knowing what exactly someone or a certain prominent person is doing all day long and as a consequence thereof in some kind taking the risk of receiving an overload of information. Social media is not bound at certain hours. Its information flood is steadily ongoing, delivering the user at any time he or she wants the “interesting” tweets and messages.

Furthermore, even for professionals like journalists or data analysts it is sometimes hard to cope with the possibilities in particular the internet provides in case of research on certain topics. That is why the common employee often faces situations in which information overload complicates the actual work. The complication in a further consequence often comes to a lack of productivity, and therefore negatively influences the economy. This is already a well-known fact, at least since studies have tried to evaluate the effects of information overload in businesses: “In advance of 2008, Basex, a knowledge economy research and advisory firm, named information overload as the expected ‘problem-of-the-year’. They estimated that over the course of 2008, an estimated $650bn would be lost in the United States due to reduced productivity and throttled innovation. Additionally, their research concluded that as much as eight hours of worker productivity per week would be lost because of this phenomenon.” Later on it says that the search of “information overload” results in 2,000,000 entries. Compared to the current 12,100,000 entries I mentioned before, within seven years there are over ten million more results, which only by considering the amount of entries multiplies the potential time of research by six times. Additionally, “a KPMG knowledge management study reported that two-thirds of the sample complained of information overload. A second study determined that 38 per cent of the surveyed managers waste a substantial amount of time locating information and that 43 per cent of the managers delayed decisions because of too much information.” To me, the results are reflecting a student’s, respectively a lecturer’s life. It also represents some kind of a chain of information (transmission), which in both cases results from or results in evaluation and further processing. We, as students, deliver with every exam, paper or presentation information of different types. Our work results from a collection of information, which has to be assessed in its value through lecturers or professors. Sometimes the quality of academic texts is afflicted with the quantity of words, which correlates with business life. There is often just so much data that has to be appropriately taken into account, especially regarding the internet, so that the estimation of its value for students becomes tougher and tougher and consequently as well for the lecturers, who have to verify the authenticity of the student’s work.

Generally, information overload is definitely existent. But, in my opinion, it is possible to work on it in an appropriate way by sticking to idea that sometimes “less is more”. As long as people do not realize that they are impacted by information overload regarding to media, it is of course rather impossible to help those. In case of the opposite one should always have in mind that everyone is able to reduce the use of media. Life should not be dependent on the number of social media platforms one is signed in. It is important to sort out “threats” of unnecessary information in order to keep your head clear of junk.