The other day I watched Bowling For Columbine because it popped up on TV. I hadn’t seen it since it first came out. I recently read A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold, so I was keen to see what I thought about Bowling 15 years later. Dressed in my lux lounge wear (men’s long johns, a sweater dress and ugg boots), I settled down with my crochet and a cup of tea. And you know what? It was a bloody good watch.
The moment it ended, I grabbed my laptop and started researching. Whenever I watch macabre movies or TV shows like that I usually end up in a Google/Reddit rabbit hole of ridiculousness. I ended up on weird threads and then somehow wound up on Creepypasta reading about Slender Man. How that happened I’ll never know but it was a super fun evening of Googling weird shit and somehow a few hours disappeared and my brain felt all fuzzy and weird.
This is typical information overload. Information overload comes in many different forms and it’s often self inflicted. How often have you heard about a thing and then immediately become obsessed with it? I did that with Bill Cunningham, ice skater Bruno Massot and The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I’ve read so many books on the FLDS, I pretty much know how to sew my own regulation modesty underwear. I’ve also watched enough videos of Bruno Massot ice skating to accurately predict the score of most olympic ice skating performances. I even know how deceptively difficult it is to land a butterfly jump. God bless the internet. This kind of information overload is fun and fairly safe because it’s self-regulating. Kind of… I knew I had to stop when I started following Bruno Massot’s girlfriend on Instagram. That felt like I was taking it a tad too far.
There’s also the other kind of information overload, the kind other people inflict on you. Like when you start talking to someone on the bus and all of a sudden they’re telling you about how the punch up at their parent’s place on Christmas day wasn’t their fault so they’re not paying to fix the porch. Or when you start googling healthy eating plans and all of a sudden you’re booked in for weekly colonics. That’s the bad kind of information, the type of information you should try to avoid.
The question is… how to avoid it? Especially if it’s everywhere. On the internet, on the TV. It’s almost as if you can’t escape it. Here are a few tips on how to deal with information overload and how to pick the information you need over the information you don’t need.
1. Delete any email that starts with ‘hey there’
‘Hey there’ is code for ‘I don’t know your name’. As a person who contributes to several public platforms I get emails like this every day. Unless the email starts with my name, is a reply to an email I’ve sent or is from someone I know, I won’t open it. Even things I’ve subscribed to, unless it’s particularly interesting to me at that moment. The one thing I will do though is open all the newsletters from my online mates, because that’s supportive but if my favourite shop sends me a sale email and I’m too busy to deal with it, I won’t open it. Embrace the delete button for it is your friend.
2. Be aware of analysis paralysis
This is where you are given too much information to make a proper choice in something. For example, think about how you want to start eating healthier so you decided to start eating a plant based diet. Then you read an article about GMO vegetables and you start thinking you should eat organic. Then you read another article about high levels of food waste in the organic food industry because when you don’t use pesticides, a larger percentage of the crops are inedible and then you just give up and eat a Mars Bar. If you’re experiencing analysis paralysis, just stop reading and listen to your instincts. For every decision you make, someone is going to find a tiny piece of information that proves your decision wrong. Use your instincts and stop reading when you’ve found a reasonable solution to your problem. You don’t need to be an expert on everything. Trusting your gut is perfectly fine.
3. Pick your people
There are heaps of self proclaimed gurus out there but you need to pick the people who resonate with you and I often find it’s a great cheat way to figure out how I’m feeling about something. I don’t have the time to sift through all the research on something because that’s not a good use of time. There are people whose jobs it is to do this, so listen to them. Even on smaller issues I’ll look to my chosen people to help me unpack how I feel about something. For feminist issues, I look to Clementine Ford. Sometimes I’ll see something that doesn’t sit right with me and I can’t figure out why and then I check out Clem and she’s perfectly articulated why it rubbed me the wrong way. I look to Dr Karl and Neil Degrasse Tyson for science things. There’s also a great face book page called Insufferable Intolerant Science Nerd and I love the woman that runs it. Amy Schumer is another one I’m very onboard with. J.K Rowling can move in with me any time she likes. I rarely disagree with these people so if I’m struggling with current issue and I’m not sure how I feel about it, I look to my chosen ones and they always sort me out.
4. Chill out
When you first find out about a cool thing, it’s easy to go gung ho and burn yourself out. I’ve been low waste for a while now but I discovered zero waste earlier this year and went a bit nuts with it. I tried freezing my compost and searching for local compost spots to take my veggie scraps. The problem is, there are no compost spots in Fitzroy and the nearest one is a 45 minute drive away. Increasing my carbon footprint to deliver compost isn’t a good environmental decision, so I’ve given up the compost thing. I also bought a bamboo toothbrush and ended up with gingivitis. My dentist made me go back to my electric toothbrush but I make sure the heads are recyclable. I also still use cling film on things like chicken because I don’t want to die from salmonella poisoning from storing raw chicken badly. Information overload can make you go a little bit crazy so when you find yourself trying to figure out how to go to the toilet without using toilet paper, you need to take a chill pill.
5. Try to find your Minimal Effective Dose
Tim Ferris talks about this a lot and it’s generally used in reference to medicine. You should always take the minimum effect dose to avoid over investing a drug or giving yourself immunity to it. So when you apply the minimal effective dose or MED to the thing you’re doing, stop there. Once you have the information you need, there’s no point in pushing it further. Once you’ve been effectively informed, you’re done. You don’t need to know what the conspiracy theorists are saying about September 11. That information is not useful to you, so move on.
Do you suffer from information overload? How do you deal with it? Any tips to share?
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