The our world has evolved over billions of years. One of our primordial advantages of homosapiens and our brethren was our ability to portray and convey information. We might not have been as massive as a wolly mammoth, or as ferocious as a saber-toothed tiger, but being able to communicate information with each other allowed for us to work together to outsmart even the wiliest of wolves and out-muscle the grizzliest of bears.
Through communication, we were able to develop higher and higher levels of trust and social awareness. Language helped create a more refined way to express complex ideas which further helped us not only survive, but thrive as the dominant species on this planet.
Through the history of civilization, access to wide-spread information was limited, and therefore rare. Any information that was shared between villages, countries, and political circles was prized and valuable. There was no such thing as Too-much-information.
But as the the industrial revolution spurned a rapid age of advancement, we created technology that cut down historical barriers and opened the flood gates of information sharing. With the advent of radio, telephone, and tv. Access to information became more mainstream and commodified.
Since the beginning of the internet, the volume of information being created and shared has grown exponentially. I could throw out impressive numbers of data about the size of the internet like petabyte, zettabyte..(yottabyte??), but the answer to questions like "how much information is added to the internet everyday? is.. Too much.
Of course, I'm not trying to villainize data or the spread of ideas. Access to information has been a vital part of who we are. However, I feel we have reached a level of it that we are not biologically ready for. Our brains have not evolved to handle the deluge of facts, numbers, names, and tidbits that batter the senses every waking minute.
Every day we are privy to untold options for filling our minds with the manias, mayhem, disasters, triumphs, cataclysms and exploits of countless others. The news harangues us with the need to know.. and the need to know NOW. We are bombarded with information and it's having devastating effects on our mental health.
While, scientifically, the jury is still out on what over-indulgence in media does to the brain, it seems Infoxication is a real problem. Information overload often leads to cognitive overload, which explains the brain fog you may feel after a heavy session on social media.
But it goes further than that. Consuming vast amounts of information is taxing on the brain. It tires you out and can lead to poor decision making. Will power is a finite resource and can quickly become depleted in the face of having to choose what information to take in, what to avoid, and how to process and understand everything we've seen, heard, or read. Furthermore, your ability to stay motivated and productive can take a hit when there is too much data swirling around in your head.
We lose our ability to focus, to make good decisions, and to think critically if we are overexposed to too much information. This explains the thriving 'fake news' market. If you consume way too much information, it becomes harder to distinguish between high-quality and poor-quality content. When you stop questioning the trustworthiness of information you consume, it becomes a lot easier to be manipulated.
Finally, overdosing on information can trigger anxiety. A failure to interpret large swaths of data, or to locate a specific piece of information we are looking for can cause elevated levels of stress in the body.
With this in mind, we should do well to remind ourselves of our 'Need NOT to know'.. Most, if not all, of the news we consume from the media on a daily basis has to do with people, things and places that are as distant and remote to us and our personal responsibilities as King Nebuchadnezzar and the ancient Babylonians in the sixth century BC.
Next time you are feeling overwhelmed from the effects of infobesity, give yourself a media diet and go on an information fast. With all the facts, quotes and data points that build up in our crowded minds, it is vitally important to spend time sifting through and decompressing the thoughts and ideas we let flow in unfiltered on an hourly basis. Taking an information retreat can do wonders to help clear the mental haze, relax built up tension, and ultimately remind us of what is most important in OUR lives, not anyone else's.
TL;DR There's a lot of information out there, and while it's awesome to have the ability to access it at our fingertips, constant input ultimately hinders us rather than helping. We should take extended daily breaks from the internet and news channels in particular, which often offer nothing of concrete value pertaining to the things that matter most in our own life.