“I feel… thin. Sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread. I need a holiday. A very long holiday.” (Bilbo, The Fellowship of the Ring)
While specifics vary from one person to the next, many people feel spread thin by the constant flow of information and access available every minute of every day. We largely bring it on ourselves, though, through our unbalanced approach to interacting with technology.
This lack of balance leads to too much information coming too fast with no down time for processing any information in a healthy way. Information overload does to our minds what indiscriminate eating and a sedentary life do to our bodies.
Information overload, known as “infobesity” or “infoxication,” has actually been around since the 1970’s. Over time, information overload leads to “information anxiety,” which distracts and negatively impacts an individual’s ability to be productive.
Even before any of these terms existed, George Miller hypothesized that humans have limited ability to process information and that overload results when these limits are exceeded. Evidence of taxed limits include:
- Poor decision making
- Inability to generate original thoughts
- Inability to have unique ideas
Nichoas Carr and Eric Schmidt agree with Miller and say that information overload could have an impact on though processes by:
- Obstructing deep thinking
- Blocking understanding
- Impeding formation of memories
- Making learning more difficult
This condition of “cognitive overload” results in diminished information retaining ability and failure to connect remembrances to experience stored in the long-term memory, leaving thoughts thin and scattered.
Simply put, information overload reduces our ability to think, understand, form memories, and learn. It limits our capability for retaining information and accurately remembering experiences.
To a great extent, we cannot control how much information comes our way nor how much we have to use technology. However, we’re not helpless either. We can find balance and avoid feeling spread thin by overindulgence.
Balance comes through setting information boundaries that mitigate the negative impact the constant flow of information has on a person’s ability to think, reason and remember. It also comes through deliberately capturing and filtering thoughts.
Creating balance in the atmosphere of the inner self requires developing ways to regulate and filter the information entering our lives. Doing so helps create a state of information balance instead of information overload in our lives.