Traveling in a metro fascinates many as I stepped to Dubai Metro after long to escape from the notorious traffic jams. After a couple of stations pass by, I realized there was something missing in this journey as compared to what it used to be. It was definitely not the usual ‘Jams’ you experience back in India. The atmosphere was so peaceful. There were neither newspaper readers nor chats or jokes around, a sense of absolute silence all around. I could feel the information and communications all pervasive. I could see, hear, since the impacts and feel the vibrations all around made me realize, even the metro am traveling is ‘robotic’ runs on information which travels along cables under the land, see-through and around walls of offices and our homes.
Indeed we all live in an era of the information revolution and the people around us are active users who use the search engines extensively to check what is not available in this universe making millions of individual hits to the popular sites. The information and communication have become an integral part of our life and many of us feel anxious and tense when we are out of reach of our phones and the younger we are the more likely the stress. How far are we comfortable if someone asks to switch off our phones for a while or leave our smartphones at an entrance? Adolescent psychologist says 66 percent of us are Nomo phobic or a fear of losing a cell phone or addicted to the usage of a cell phone, known as “Nomophobia,” or “no-mobile-phone phobia. This phobia is intense as many of us go to bed with our cell phones just like one will have a teddy bear in the past. The only difference the teddy doesn’t communicate but the phone does with potential health hazards.
The Information overload
Information overload is an increasing problem both in life and workplace. The information is just a click away or more accurately a Google search, depending on your search probable a dozen or hundreds of blogs or topics pop up in front of you to pick. The information is often persistent and can be very intrusive. We have become targets and subjected to an increasing flow of information. Much of it is ‘motivated’ to the sender rather than the recipient. A marketing company may be eager to expose their corporate sales messages or visit their websites and react in a responsive way that benefits them. Take an analysis of your incoming messages in your smartphone, what you receive in a day or in a week: sales literature, Junk emails, Spams, text messages both welcome and unwelcome all that gets hoarded inflates your phone memory. Sometimes we feel jaded and struggle to cope with our brain cannot process. This flurry of information doesn’t increase our knowledge or understanding. As a consequence, many of us feel insecure as we are bombarded with information and developments we do not want to comprehend. The result is either these overloads leads to indecisiveness or an analysis paralysis.
Information overload occurs when we have too many information available for our brain to process a particular task. As per the neuroscience, the more accurate definition of the information overload is a “cognitive overload”. Cognitive load theory involves understanding how many discrete units of information can be retained in short-term memory before information loss occurs. An example of this principle that seems to be commonly cited is the use of 7-digit phone numbers, based on the theory that the average person can retain only seven chunks of information in short-term memory. This shows our working memory capacity has inherent limits.Those who learn to deal or cope up with it effectively will have a major advantage in the coming years.
Tips to overcome “Cognitive Overload”
- Schedule breaks: Take a breather to your brain by switching off or moving away from your computers or smartphones can help you.
- Set Limits: Internet is available 24/7; limit your browsing time and the quality of information you need to filter.
- Make your computer clutter free
- Spending less time on gaining information that is nice to know and more time on things that we need to know.
- Focusing on quality of information, rather than quantity. A short concise Email is more valuable than a long email.
- Learning how to create better information (this is what the info-engineering is about) be direct in what you ask people so that they can provide short precise answers.
- Single Tasking and keeping the mind focused on one issue at a time.
The information overload is a progeny of our ever-changing disruptive technology. Let us look back 50 years or so for the number of inventions that happened, most of the breakthroughs ensued when we used to have limited access to information. Does this point these “cognitive overload” breeds a generation less innovative? Most of our life-changing innovations that happened in the past were a ‘slip up’. Let us hope these disruptive technologies breed some “Slip-ups” and if this happens in the coming days… Remember the returns can be enormous !!