Friday, December 4, 2009

Information Overload

It's time we brought an end to this so-called Information Age.

I was reading this article this morning, about a groom who stopped his marital proceedings mid-ceremony so he could update his Facebook and Twitter pages.

Are you effing kidding me?

Why do so many human beings feel the need to alert hundreds, if not thousands, of mere acquaintances of the most personal, intimate details of their lives, in real-time nonetheless?

And conversely, why do so many human beings soak this sort of thing up?

In this day and age, we are bombarded with information, from blogs (yes, including this one), yahoo groups, tweets, facebook pages, myspace pages, text messages, and so many other different emerging "news" sources, most of it inconsequential at the end of the day. I don't think we were meant, as a species, to be barraged by all this stuff. But for whatever reason, people are spending inordinate amounts of time transmitting the most random (and often) meaningless information to one another.

The pervasive nature of this information overload - both the giving and the receiving of it - seems to be an addiction of sorts. My uneducated guess is that the ability to tell hundreds of people something about oneself makes one feel important.

But far be it from me to shake my finger at everyone else. Despite the fact I think Tiger Woods's "transgressions" (to use his word) should remain a private affair - for the sake of his family - I'll admit I've checked up on the developing story every day since it broke.

Shame on me for perpetuating this gossipy nonsense that passes for news.

Inane status updates on social networking sites bug me the most. Oh, you're having your third coffee of the morning? Good for you, as Christian Bale would say.

Oh, you don't know what to do with your day, so you decided to tweet about not knowing what to do with your day? That's awesome, thanks for the update.

Oh, you have a hangover because you were out partying last night? Actually, that's pretty cool, which bar did you go to...

I don't know what we can do to reshape the cultural zeitgeist, but I'd like to see us enter a new Age, whatever it is. Like, let's say, a Second Space Age.

Hell, I'd even take another Bronze Age over what we have right now. Okay, just kidding. But seriously, I'd love to see us enter the Think Before You Speak/Text/Tweet/Blog Age.


Nick Hughes said...

Thanks for reminding me to listen to that Bale rant again. So funny.

There was definitely some debate about that and how the instant-news culture was responsible for leaking an argument that was supposed to be protected by closed-set privacy.

Another Information Junkie

seana said...

I wonder how much of all this is the sheer novelty of the ability to do all this. I mean I know it seems like it's been going on for awhile, but it's a completely new technology to some unknown thousands every day. When you hear Dan Rather admit that he had tweeted his first tweet that day, and hear in this former media mogul's voice the same tenativeness that anyone else has at the moment they begin to embrace any of the new technologies, you realize that all of this stuff is really in it's infancy and how interested people stay in it will depend a lot in the end on that magic word 'content'.

Nathanael Green said...

Brian, you're teasing me: you know how much I love the Bronze Age.

And Seana, I think you might be on to something. When everyone has a voice, we all feel special, but I think pretty quickly we learn to ignore the random static - like hiding certain people's updates on Facebook. (Shh ... don't tell them.) Sometimes the inanity of daily narration is too much.

Interesting side note - I think there's a lot of potential in "crowdsourcing" for information. Using social networks to ask questions or get recommendations can be pretty handy.

seana said...

Yes, Facebook invites started coming to me at an unfortunate time--it was at just the moment when I realized that I might already have gone on a bit too far with how much time I was spending on line, vs. the real world. I don't doubt that I would just ignore the inanity. But even the valuable stuff might end up taking a bit too much time from daily life. I'll probably give in at some point, but I haven't reached it yet.

"Crowdsourcing" already seems to have come a long way. Ask any random question of google and you're likely to some sort of forum, or of course Wikipedia, which is megacrowdsourcing, I suppose.

Brian O'Rourke said...

Nick -

Bale was way out of line, but at the same time, I tend to agree that it should have stayed on the set. According to Bale, he apologized profusely (as he should have) for blowing up like that, and that should have been the end of it.

I think part of the problem is we've become more and more voyeuristic. We know everything, but even that is not enough - we want to know MORE.

It's this tendency that's partly responsible for taking the magic away from movies. Online, you can find screenplays for films that are still being shot, you can find all the spoilers you want. Even if you're trying to AVOID spoilers, they're so ubiquitous anymore, you almost have to avoid certain websites altogether.

Brian O'Rourke said...


I hope you're right and that this craze dies down.

I see tweeting as little more than people just quoting themselves. It's a bit self-indulgent for my tastes, but then again, I write an effing blog, so I'm not one to talk.

Brian O'Rourke said...


I think you would do well in a Bronze Age. You would be one of the few people who knows how to brew beer - you'd be rich and well-liked.

adrian mckinty said...


In Britain everyone seems to love Stephen Fry's constant twittering about his coffee and his morning walking and his constant observations on London but I find it make me want to puke.

Human beings are supposed to be in small family groups in the fastness of the African savannah, hundreds of miles from other humans with vast open vistas between them. Not bunged together in anthills everyone knowing everyone else's business. Its horrifying.

Brian O'Rourke said...


I totally agree, but who's Mike? :)

Seriously though, it is horrifying. But maybe you and I are the weird ones because we're NOT into voyeurism or exhibitionism.

Rita Vetere said...

I'm of the same view as Adrian and Brian. I'm constantly being pestered to get with Twitter for promotional purposes, but as someone who values my privacy, can't seem to bring myself to do it. Overshare. Not a good thing IMHO.

seana said...

Mike, (No, I don't know who he is either, but he seems to have taken over the discussion)

Personally, I think being alone with the small family unit all the time would drive me crazy.

I used to think I'd like to live up in the Santa Cruz mountains in a little cabin somewhere, but I find that I actually don't like to be that isolated. Coffee shops, bookstores, movie theaters and libraries seem fairly necessary to my happiness.

I do think everybody wanting to know everybody's business is pretty human, though. Just as is the sentiment I share, which is that not everybody needs to know mine.

adrian mckinty said...

Did I say Mike, I meant Susie.

Seana will know what I'm talking about.

No, it is a bit serious though, I was on the phone to an old pal of mine and then a few minutes later I was on your blog ranting. In the old days (73000 BCE) my convo with Mike would be the only human interaction I'd have the whole day. Nowadays I talk to dozens of people, a lot of them strangers and then there's blogging and emails etc. etc. I'm not pissing on the internet, its great and the advantages more than outway the hassles and I'm actually surprised how well we manage to cope with these aspects of modern life, but still, I agree, enough is enough sometimes and everyone would benefit from an internet free day once a week.

The orthodox Jewish sabbath where you do nothing isnt a terrible idea I think.