Thursday, May 19, 2011

Information Overload?

My daughter just lost her first tooth and before going to bed and sticking it under her pillow she announced that she wanted to keep the tooth instead. So she wrote a letter to the tooth fairy explaining that she was unable to give her the tooth as she wanted to be able to remember what her baby teeth looked like. My husband laughed as he helped her write this note. Apparently she is like her mother.

I have always been an archivist. I’m the family-tree making type. I’m an annoying picture taker at gatherings. I write in diaries, journals and on calendars and spreadsheets to mark events. I have a 10-year journal where I note everything that happened of significance (it could be a bike ride!) on each date for 10 years repeating. I keep baby teeth, and first haircuts and all of that. I suppose I find many things to be sentimental.

I have recently thought about Twitter and Facebook very likely leading us into information overload. I mean, how is it humanly possible to find the time to keep up with those things anyway? And further, I heard an observation that we apparently invest in fewer, better quality relationships as we age. Yet many people I know have many hundred Facebook ‘friends’. Some are in the thousands. Does this mean that they have many poor quality friends? And does tracking Twitter and Blackberry or Text messages or Facebook updates decrease the quality of information that you are receiving?

We definitely do have access to more information and more people than ever before. But I would argue that as adults we also have the choice to manage the time we spend on these gadgets, and the way in which we view the information. I would hope that one would not pass up an intimate tea with a dear friend because they are far too busy reading news reels on Facebook. I must admit that I have caught myself scrolling my online gadgets while my children ask me repeatedly to play with them. It does take a moment to realize how stupid I am being. And then at least a moment to decide and make a conscious decision whether I am going to keep scrolling or crawl down on the floor and do a puzzle. Some would say the choice is a no-brainer. I would note that at least I have a choice!

Is it better to live in a world where messages from our direct relations come by horseback from over the mountain, taking three weeks? Would you long for a time when you didn’t find out until long after it happened that your neighbour passed away, or your friend had her baby, or your sister’s child has been admitted to the hospital? How do you tell where the line is and that you are entering the TMI (too much information) zone?

I love having Facebook in my life. I hate when I spend too much time on it but I am the only one to blame for that. I love the blogs I read, the people I ‘meet’ online, the ideas we share and the things I can scout out. With the right filter, I can choose what I have access to and what I can skim over. People have done this with newspapers for over a hundred years. Perhaps we could even say that cave drawings were a form of ‘news reel’ for the day. We have to use much more discretion as we're not always getting peer-reviewed data or words that have been verified by fact-checkers and editors. But the information is all there if we need it.

Archiving our lives is not new. Having access to unlimited information, people and stuff with very little wait is indeed novel. But we always have the choice about how much it will consume our lives. Isn’t that what we’ve been fighting for when we choose our leaders, when we seek fair and equal treatment between humans, when we push for sustainable food production, environmentally-friendly alternatives? We want all people, everywhere to have access to information and choices.

So if you find yourself like I do sometimes, a little overwhelmed with the onslaught of information and online expectations, try writing a little note on a piece of paper and stick it under your pillow. I would remember what Jerry Seinfeld said: your time is yours to design.

Dear Life Fairy, Thank you for your offering of unlimited updates and information on everything under the sun in exchange for my time but I have decided I would like to keep my time so that I’ll know what it looks like when I look back on it. You see, when I get busy doing too many mindless tasks in a day, I can’t seem to remember what I did. And I don’t find there is much to show for anything. I am blessed to have abundance available to me at the touch of my fingers. I like that there are options if I need something or someone or I am needed.

But sometimes, just sometimes, I might take a moment of quiet, nothing time just to take it all in.

No comments:

Post a Comment

***thanks for stopping by...I look forward to hearing from you!***