Information Overload - Obsolete Week


By Lisa Autz

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Every internet minute YouTube users upload 100 hours of video, Facebook walls are hit with over 600,000pieces of new content, and Tumblr publishes over 38,000 new posts. In roughly a week’s time, we end up generating a quantity of information equivalent to the amount that exists from the dawn of civilization up to 2003.

The global internet population now represents 2.4 billion people who contribute to the mass of data smog in our modern life.

Finding reliable information takes a scavenger hunt of research–one clue leading to another. We excavate vital facts from the wedges of trivial nonsense. A process that always leaves us doubting ourselves on the accuracy and sufficiency of our collected material.

Most of our quests divert us to the crevasses of the internet we never knew existed, or even worse, to that weird place in the YouTube world we never want to revisit. We pause and ask, “how the hell did I get here?”

Without a guided map, we often find ourselves strayed from original intent with the likelihood of summoning inaccurate or inconsistent sources masked as factual. So does the pile of information get greater at the expense of valuable knowledge being buried into extinction?

This phenomenon is known as “information overload”–a phrase first coined by Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock, written in 1970. Since the advent of modern computers, we have been able to create, duplicate, and access information in a matter of seconds polluting our internet sphere with digital debris.

A 2002 study published under the Journal of the American Medical Association assessed the the quality of health information for consumers on the internet. At the time, the results concluded that 55 of its studies, or 70 percent, contained inaccurate or poor quality information.

The Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal also released a study in 2004 on the inaccuracy of Lyme Disease data on the internet. Out of the 19 websites examined, 9 gave inaccurate information concerning the disease.

The authoritative sites that we do rely on for factual data are now less likely to be an outlet for free public knowledge. The New York Times Co. released a “series of strategic initiatives,” in April explaining the greater necessity of subscription passes to some of their most important articles.

The crux of this conundrum, however, may lie in our lack of control rather than the overwhelming amount of information out there.

Lucy Jo Palladino Ph.D, a psychologist and author of Find Your Focus Zone: An Effective New Plan to Defeat Distraction and Overload told in an interview that “the brain can process vast amounts of information depending on the form in which it’s presented.”

According to Palladino, “information overload occurs when a person is exposed to more information than the brain can process at one time.”

Recent reports have been made that $1 billion is lost each year by Fortune 500 companies through decreased productivity caused by information overload.

Domo a company that allows access to multiple platforms of realtime data onto one location, is a tool used by H&R Block to increase productivity.

Recently the Information Overload Research Group has developed to work with academics and corporations to create coping mechanisms in helping people focus and navigate more efficiently.

Google and Infogineering are inventing processing models to improve the accuracy of web browsing. provides tools such as a Clarity Rating Calculator that helps writers formulate concise, quality writing on the web.

Google continues to increase its utilization of personal information to better customize search results. The manipulation of user-generated data, however, faces intense scrutiny as questions of privacy continue to arise.

Google’s new policy announced in 2012 increases its access to names, photos, and searches to provide to advertisers and networking sites. The company explains its reason as a “desire to create one beautifully simple and intuitive experience across Google.”

This attempt at simplifying information and instilling structure can also actually limit us into our niches of interests rather than filter falsified information out for the consumer.

At a Techonomy conference in Lake Tahoe, Calif. Eric Schmidt, Google CEO, cautioned the ability for companies like his to alter the vast amount of information produced.

“I spend most of my time assuming the world is not ready for the technology revolution that will be happening to them soon,” Schmidt said.

In the information age we live in, structure and quality control seem to be slowly evolving in demand with the flood of data. However, as more technology is used to combat technology, we continue to give up the command on conscious consumption.