Do We Need to Worry about Information Overload and Mass Media?
We’re in an age of rapid accessibility and diversity of information. This information often generates the state of infobesity—whereas individuals are often too overwhelmed by information and struggle to make informed decisions.
Our smart devices seem to manipulate us more than we use them. Every day, an average person taps his or her phone roughly 2,600 times, receives 20 text messages, and watches 183 minutes of television. Every minute, 455,000 tweets are sent, 3,607,080 Google searches are conducted, and 46,740 Instagram posts are uploaded. Some individuals are well aware of how online influences can dictate the decisions and opinions in our real lives.
Bain & Company, a consulting firm, wrote a detailed report that many companies it oversees witnessed a decline in staff efficiency and rationality of decision making due to the surge of the Internet applications and social media voices. Pundits like Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic used to say that information from smart devices is separate from the reality of situations, but that does not seem to apply anymore.
Some have taken action against their intense desire over new information. Justin Rosenstein, a Silicon Valley software developer, uses a smartphone that will prohibit access to any apps during a limited period of time. He believed that many social media phenomena like “likes” are simply phantoms providing “bright dings of pseudo-pleasure.” Ironically, as a former Facebook employee, he developed the social media website’s “like” feature. He believes that he is not the only person in the technology field who has realized how encroaching and manipulative certain aspects of electronic devices, especially smart phones, can be. In an exclusive interview, he expressed his concern over how people may need to comply the status quo, and may not have an alternative choice on management of information.
Mass media and its brainwashing are not some new gizmo suddenly invented by the technopolies. The fascination with technological power has been prevelant for generations. Aldous Huxley, built a fictitious world in his 1931 book called Brave New World, where citizens were artificially engineered in their stature to comply certain orders, and where people voluntarily entertained themselves to forget the oppression against the manipulative regime. If he were alive today, he would perhaps see the dystopia he imagined becoming a reality.
Huxley may be the harbinger, but scholars and pundits have crusaded against technological advancement. Marshall McLuhan and his protege Neil Postman, who both lived before the emergence of the Internet, warned people in their works that devices that can enhance mass organization of information may replace the intellectual capabilities of human beings. Given the accessibility and comprehensiveness of information on the Internet now, we are becoming “massman,” whereas other people’s perception of the information contribute solely to our own interpretation of concepts.
We may be truly into a dystopian spiral of tangential information impeding our abilities to make rational decisions. What may be worse is that there are no indications of this trend of rapid reliance of online information declining. It’s a time when people joke that reading a book is obsolete and pedantic. It’s a time when partisanship is maximized through personalized development of social media groups. We are truly obsessed with such devices with limited awareness, distracting ourselves from important challenges of our time.