Many scholarly articles are in print about information overload and its physical, psychological, and social consequences. Francis Heylighen ... in a 2002 article titled "Complexity and Information Overload in Society: Why Increasing Efficiency Leads to Decreasing Control," writes:David Shenk, who apparently coined the term "data smog" in his 1997 book, says:
"We get much more information than we desire, as we are inundated by an ever growing amount of email messages, internal reports, faxes, phone calls, newspapers, magazine articles, webpages, TV broadcasts, and radio programs. ... The retrieval, production and distribution of information [are] infinitely easier than in earlier periods, practically eliminating the cost of production. This has reduced the natural selection processes, which would otherwise have kept all but the most important information from being transmitted. ... The result is an explosion in irrelevant, unclear, and simply erroneous data fragments. This overabundance of low quality information has been called data smog. ... The same applies to the ever growing amount of information that reaches us via the mass media. The problem is that people have clear limits in the amount of information they can process."
"Just as fat has replaced starvation as this nation’s number one dietary concern, information overload has replaced information scarcity as an important new emotional, social, and political problem."Information overload is a physical problem too, affecting sleep, concentration, digestion, and the immune system.
How to cope with data smog:
- Turn off the television for at least an hour or two every evening.
- Spend some time each week without your pager or cell phone.
- Resist advertising - never buy a product based on unsolicited email (spam).
- Go on periodic "data fasts."
- Write clearly and succinctly. Verbose writing is wasteful and difficult to read.
- Skim newsletters and magazines and rip out a copy of an article or two that you really want to read and digest.
- Filter your email. Many email programs allow you to set "filters" which send unwanted email directly to the trash.
- Do not forward chain letters, urban legends, urgent messages about email viruses.
- Organize your Web bookmarks or favorites.
"In 1971 the average American was targeted by at least 560 daily advertising messages. Twenty years later, that number has risen six fold, to 3,000 messages per day."It's a junk-food environment out there.