FYI: there' s too much in­for­ma­tion

Emirates Woman - - Contents -

The wealth of con­tent avail­able to us is mount­ing into a pile of ab­surd pro­por­tions. Is it time for a con­tent cull?

Tell me if this sounds fa­mil­iar. Scene: it’s 8:08pm, you’re hun­kered down in a state of semi-hi­ber­na­tion on your chaise longue. You’ve been in this po­si­tion for ap­prox­i­mately an hour and a half. Your deeply crin­kled work­wear is a vis­i­ble mea­sure of this time gone by. It was only meant to be for a minute or two, this slumped busi­ness, but both your mind and body are telling you ‘no’.

At 9:20pm you still haven’t got round to read­ing the Fri­day sup­ple­ment long-reads (or short-reads for that mat­ter, and it’s Wed­nes­day) and you haven’t lis­tened to the last four episodes of NPR’s Hid­den Brain pod­cast, you haven’t been on the BBC site in yonks and that book on your night­stand? Ado­les­cent ants have taken up res­i­dency on page 43. Be­cause in this mo­ment, the de­sire to be wellinformed is at odds with want­ing to in­dulge in rare still­ness.

By 11:30pm, you’ve en­deav­oured, with un­mis­tak­able iron will, to read in bed till your eye­lids can take no more, but in­stead you splin­ter off onto YouTube and watch a fiveminute clip of a di­shev­elled wo­man who hasn’t washed her bed­sheets in over 10 years, which then turns into an hour­long slide into the archives of Os­car speeches from 1991-94. This is me and I am sure you, too.

Th­e­salvoof­con­tent(thearti­cles,the­so­cial­me­di­a­posts, the shar­ing, the retweet­ing and the sto­ries) we're try­ing to man­age is com­ing at us with head-spin­ning ve­loc­ity – the In­ter­net has a lot to an­swer for our sa­ti­ated minds. What’s avail­able is so vis­i­ble to us and yet – does any­one else feel like their con­sump­tion of it is in­com­plete?

If only you could see my Google Chrome right now: it’s a conga line of dor­mant tabs – an ar­bi­trary clut­ter of out­dated reads that I 'must-get-to-at-some-point’. But when I do start read­ing an ar­ti­cle about say, fraud­u­lent clair­voy­ants, half­way through I’ll com­mand ‘T’ and type ‘Su­san Boyle 2018’ into a new tab to see what ever hap­pened to her. She’s work­ing on her eighth al­bum (and the other seven were?) in case you were won­der­ing. But then each new thing gets a scrape of my flit­ting at­ten­tion.

Be­ing that we’re im­mersed in on­line worlds, our con­cen­tra­tion lev­els have been shot by brows­ing from one thing to another ev­ery two min­utes, all the live­long day. Our brains are used to a rou­tine of de­mand­ing new tasks as we go from tab to tab. Clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist, Dr Sal­iha Afrid­ifromLightHouseAra­bia,con­firm­stha­tourat­ten­tion span “has slowly been de­clin­ing over the years due to in­for­ma­tion over­load and all the no­ti­fi­ca­tions we re­ceive. How­ever, new re­search coun­ters what we feel is shorter at­ten­tion span. The amount of at­ten­tion hasn’t changed – our in­ter­est and ex­pec­ta­tion lev­els have. For ex­am­ple: the rea­son we can’t read a novel in the same way we used to, is be­cause so­cial me­dia has raised our ex­pec­ta­tions of hav­ing a more in­ter­ac­tive and en­gag­ing ex­pe­ri­ence”. In­ter­est­ing. Now, ev­ery time I see some­one post­ing their rec­om­mended readin­gorTVshowonIn­sta­gramS­to­ries,I’ll­won­der,have you fin­ished it? Or have you not even started it yet? My hands are up high on this one – guilty as charged.

So how do we man­age all of this con­tent to bet­ter serve us? To fil­ter the news from the noise, we have to start cu­rat­ing our con­tent bet­ter (both on­line and in print) rather than re­ly­ing on what is al­go­rith­mi­cally de­signed to suck us in. Let’s not for­get the me­dia op­er­ates as a busi­ness. To make money, clicks need to be gen­er­ated via con­tent and more con­tent. Nir Eyal, au­thor of Hooked:

How­toBuildHabit-Form­ingProd­ucts said in a blog post called HowToS­tayIn­formedWithoutLos­ingYourMind “Me­dia com­pa­nies that de­liver news on­line mon­e­tise at­ten­tion through dis­play ad­ver­tis­ing. They want to keep us click­ing and scrolling as much as pos­si­ble. If a story drives clicks, views, or reads, they have an in­cen­tive to pub­lish it – some­times to sen­sa­tion­alise.”

The ‘pull-to-re­fresh’ cy­cle of news is a pres­sure cooker that can send us into parox­ysms of para­noia – how can we pos­si­bly quench all this con­tent in real time and still work a 9am-6pm job, have a so­cial life (in which said con­tent is the talk­ing point), re­ply to reams of voice notes and com­mit to a healthy month of GuavaPass?

It’s got­ten to a point where I’ll lock in a few ar­ti­cles and abite-sizepod­castepisodeina30-min­ute­cook­ing­win­dow, when I can con­fi­dently leave my lentil and quinoa chili to ad-lib on low-medium heat. That sense of ac­com­plish­ment is toe-tin­gling. But in the age of im­pres­sion­able ex­po­si­tion and rep­u­ta­tion (post­ing our lives to quench our crave for 'likes') are we piv­ot­ing more on quan­tity than qual­ity?

Dr Sal­iha cites Amer­i­can writer and re­searcher Ni­cholas Carr, who fa­mously said the “In­ter­net is mak­ing us stupid” be­cause it com­pro­mises our abil­ity for deep con­tem­pla­tion – in­stead, we skim lots of con­tent. “We have a lot of in­for­ma­tion at our fin­ger­tips but it isn’t in­te­grated. We may feel good about the quan­tity of our ac­com­plish­ments and be­ing able to mul­ti­task, but our cre­ativ­ity is lack­ing,” adds Dr Sal­iha.

To claim back our cre­ativ­ity, we need to make room for some con­sid­er­able blank space in our minds. So next time you’re splayed out on your chaise longue, Dr Sal­iha urges us to “make time to do noth­ing”. Put Net­flix in the cat­e­gory of noth­ing­ness be­cause as much as it’s con­sid­ered cul­tural fluff, it’s a com­fort­ing es­cape valve from the must-must-must nar­ra­tives foisted on us.

In my fi­nal at­tempt to find out how oth­ers wade through con­tent, I made a shouty plea on Twit­ter: “HOW DO YOU ALL DO IT?” A friend sent a gif of the hookahsmok­ing cater­pil­lar from Ali­ceinWon­der­land with smoke rings danc­ing out of his mouth. Mes­sage du­ti­fully re­ceived: chill out. Reader: in the spirit of be­ing ‘only hu­man’ we can do any­thing but we can’t do every­thing.

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