05 February 2010

On information overload

If information overload is such a problem, why don't we do something about it? We could if we wanted to. How many of us bother to tune our spam filters? How many of us turn off the little evanescent window in Outlook that tells us we have a new email? Who signs off of social media because there's just too much junk? Who turns off their BlackBerry or iPhone in meetings to ensure no distractions? Nobody, that's who — or very few souls anyway. 
Why? First, there is the everlasting hope of something new and exciting. Our work and home lives can be pretty boring, and we're always hoping that something will come across the ether that will liven things up. If I turn up the filtering on the spam filter or turn off the smartphone, I might miss out on an email promising a new job, a text message offering a new relationship, an RSS feed with a new news item, and so forth. Every new communication offers the frisson of a possible life-changing information event, though it seldom delivers on the promise.
Tom Davenport in the FT

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