There is a hidden problem with how we are consuming information.
We are all very aware of how unhealthy fast food is. It is a known fact that the readily available food that we can grab “on the go” isn’t necessarily that good at “keeping us going.”
What you, perhaps, don’t realise is that you have anther problem: What I like to call our “Fast Information” or “Fast Media” (Meant in the same context as fast food) addiction.
We live in a wonderful age where we can get information at the flick of a few keys, anytime, anywhere. Whilst we all have a handle on how fast food clogs up our arteries, we haven’t really considered how all this readily available information we’re scoffing is effectively doing the same to our central nervous systems.
Our brains have this great capacity to learn patterns in our behaviour and optimise for us. Normally, this is great, but not when we are consuming media as we currently do.
Social media is really just the start. We call these platforms “social” media, but what is actually going on is that we are being tricked into believing that we are “more connected”. In fact, we are being deprived of all of the physical feedback that we have evolved to receive in order to make us feel properly involved. What results is a growing feeling of social anxiety and depression, along with the loss of ability to make real connections. We’ve probably all looked around us in a restaurant or Cafe to see nearly everyone looking at their phones when they could be making real connections that our psychologies actually crave.
Productivity also suffers when it comes to the presence of social media in our lives. One British Study Shows that companies collectively lose 2.2 billion a year due to people spending time on social media sites. Of course, this adds to the usual business related consumption of information. A study by Intel states that the average knowledge worker can expect three minutes of uninterrupted work on any task before being interrupted. This means that they typically lose 2.1 hours a day due to distractions and necessary “recovery time.”
All this eager consuming of information and constant distraction is having a serious affect on our abilities to focus; It is current thinking that we should all be better at multitasking and that our byte sized channels of information is assisting with this. However, this is very bad news for our brains.
We can only truly focus consciously on one thing at a time. Multitasking, therefore, forces us to do extra processing due to the cost of ‘context switching’ (the time it takes to switch our minds when we move from one task to another). This affects our productivity and thinking time. In the longer term, because, like all good optimising machines, our brains go to work at trying to make us better at switching quickly from one thing to another, we end up with an overall reduction in efficiency.
To make up for this low efficiency, our poor brains try to do their best with the resources they have to work with. Our grey matter becomes ever selective of information. We will naturally ignore large amounts of data, and potentially lose interest beyond the first few lines. This Lack of sufficient data means it takes longer to make a decision and the ones that we do make will typically contain more errors.
All of this cutting out of the bigger picture also means that we have difficulty in truly seeing how the details relate back to the overall context of what we are trying to understand; thus affecting our ability to comprehend.
It also turns out that the way we consume information is affecting productivity due to a lack of “thinking time.” We are too busy dealing with continuous streams of easily accessible information that we rarely have any real space and time to think.
There is plenty of research out there that suggests that having daily segments of quiet time without any sources of information within reach can have a major affect in increasing productivity and creativity.
…And you thought that information technology was making you more productive and empowered?
In short: You may no longer be clogging your arteries by reaching for that burger, but each time you reach for that phone or you find yourself clicking on a social media site, you may well be clogging up your brain.
It’s time we managed our consumption of information.
For more on how – Contact Me Here