What is information overload?

Information overload is a description given to the phenomenon where so much information is absorbed by the human brain that it becomes almost impossible to process it. Alvin Toffler, an academic from Russia, is responsible for coining the term. Since the phrase was first used, it has become very popular, especially in the computer age, although some say the idea is more a matter of time and presentation than actual data.

As the variety of communication systems available increases, concerns about information overload also arise.

The reason why information overload concerns have become so prevalent in today’s world is explained by the complexity of communication systems available to humans. Instant communication is available via email, cell phones, text messaging, instant messaging. Added to this are the thousands of academic journals on the Internet and even more information freely distributed through blogs and amateur websites. When all of this is considered, information is being exchanged at rates never before experienced.

Students and other individuals involved in intensive research activities sometimes experience information overload.

Furthermore, when considering these sources, much of the information presented may not be original. As a result, the reader or viewer will often spend time reviewing data already received from other sources. If there are discrepancies, or even slight differences in the way information is presented, this can create confusion, leading the individual to feel overwhelmed.

Watching television can cause information overload.

Those who suffer from information overload can come from a variety of professions and fields, but tend to be those most closely associated with intensive study activities or those deeply involved in communications. For example, they might be academics or students who might try to do a lot of research, using a lot of sources very quickly. Physicians doing research on a patient’s condition or treatment options can also be overwhelmed with all the materials available, as can an administrative assistant managing multiple schedules and communication channels at the same time.

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Many people believe that cell phones with wireless Internet access are contributing to information overload.

Despite the fact that too much information seems to be a real problem for many people, some say the real problem is time overload. In other words, the information being distributed can be processed, but there just isn’t enough time for it. If this is the case, the solution is not to reduce information consumption, but to give it more time to process it. Relaxation techniques and improved time management can also offer some relief.

Ease of access to information online is contributing to information overload.

Another problem that some see behind this problem is simply the way the information is presented. With television shows and commercials training millions of brains for flashy images and scenes that come and go quickly, information often becomes somewhat disjointed. Therefore, the brain must spend a long period of time trying to connect everything together for a more cohesive picture.

Some people argue that the use of mobile technology is reducing attention span.

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