Sunday, January 11, 2009

Information Pollution: Are you a victim?

I am a victim of it. Give me a minute. I will soon explain you what information pollution is. But first let me take you through a scenario.

I need to create a presentation for my team that I have to present next week. So I need to get started.
Sunday 6:00 pm: I log in to my computer(Internet I mean.Computer isn't a computer unless its connected to Internet). Let me check my mails first for a while. Aah quite a few. No none from my friends. They are mails from dozen odd sites and blogs to whom I am subscribed to. I open and just brush through them and moving on. "Hi", i receive a ping from my Gtalk friend. "Hi, how u doing" and ensues few minutes of dilly dallying. My eyes catch to a blog link of another friend who is sporting it in his status message. My fingers click it automatically. And some more time brushing through his blog post. He opines on the Satyam fiasco. I read and jump to a related link and in a few minutes I see through a dozen cross linked pages.
I am reminded of my task in hand. I start by googling about my presentation topic. I get a whole list of links. I click and find something more interesting and irrelevant than what I wanted. I am hooked again for dont know how long.
Sunday 9:00 pm. I haven't started my work yet.

Do you suffer from such distractions?

Is information overload becoming too overbearing?

This new trend is resulting in digital fatigue and digital noise. The big hyped Information Age is generating a lot of clutter in our lives.
"Information pollution is where it stops being a burden and becomes an impediment to your ability to get your work done" says Dr Nielsen, a Internet Usability expert.
E-mails, internet, blogs, Instant messengers, SMSs, Twitters: we proudly talk about them as social media tools of the 21st Century. They are meant to communicate better, search better, reach faster, but what I just mentioned are some of the negative effects.
Though the tools are all good and purposeful, the accumulative and uncontrolled bombardment of information to a receptive eye is dangerous. No one has gone unscathed with the nuisance of Spam mailers. But not much has been done in the IT fraternity to curb this menace.
"If people don't develop really harsh counter-measures, it will basically destroy their ability to use the computer in any productive way and it becomes the ruler of your time," warns Dr Nielsen.

I am reminded of an excellent piece of repartee from a wise colleague of mine. At office lunch table, I was surprised to know that he did not have Internet at home. I remarked that I cant think of life without Internet, to which he quipped, "I was never born with one"
Well, he is one soul who has stuck to his good old ways of life. But there are many harried one's like me who have enslaved themselves to the Internet.
For people, who still think the idea to disentangle from the Internet is impossible can consider having "switch off" days in a week, where they would stay away from the medium.
I personally consider "switch off" days from mobile very effective.
The icing on the cake for me is going to happen in April this year, where I am going to be on switch off mode from civilization for 10 at a stretch. And not just that. I would be mum for these 10 days. Its a Vipasanna Meditation edict to follow such restraint. Hope this would remove the accumulated clutter in life.

Well its not just me to get rid of this mess. There are many like me. And the likes of these people formed The Information Overload Research Group. This organization works together to understand, publicize and solve information overload problems.


Prasanna Seshadri Sunday, January 11, 2009 7:26:00 PM  

This is a problem for many, as the saying goes, if you want to fill out a bag with pebbles and sand, then you first need to fill the bag with pebbles then the sand can go in easily, doing otherwise would be a disaster.

We should never login to anything till we complete our important tasks and thats what discipline is all about.

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