Information overload / emotional underload


I have been pondering what life was like some time ago for some reason recently and it occurred to me that the amount of information we take in now could be having a negative effect on the time we have available to just think about things and do the stuff that makes us human.

None of this is original because it is a subject that many have addressed, but I suspect it is relevant to most of you and is something we all rarely consider.

I don’t relax, ever. That is my problem and not necessarily a product of modern day living, but over decades I have become that way and struggled to sit back and just take some time to think. I used to, however, be quite happy to sit down and read a book, listen to music or play a game, but no more. I can read for 10 minutes maximum, I never play games and music is just there in the background while I do other things.

I then started to think about my first job in a bank where records were held on paper and we had to sift through them to find anything. We dealt with travellers cheques, international money order and there was not a real computer in sight, apart from green screen terminals that did very little.

We communicated instantly by fax or even telex to deal with banks abroad in a secure fashion and I spent more time than I needed to in the fax area because I fancied one of the girls who worked there. As an aside I eventually asked her out and 25 years later she is still my wife.

Anyway, the point I am making is that I remember thinking about very little back then. Girls, work, music, money and clothes. Going out to a club was normal and relaxing was the way of things. It could simply be that this is how being young works, but free time now seems to be consumed by small screens and a constant taking and receiving of information whether we know we are doing it or not.

I’m not saying this is a bad thing, but I am curious as to if any of you feel the same.

Categories: Articles

4 replies

  1. I’d say yes and no. Some of that is definitely age, but I don’t think I take in that much more info. It’s definitely there for the taking, but at some point I just stopped subjecting myself to it. I just choose to ignore it for the most part. Turn off the notifications and it all goes away.

  2. I’m getting ready to pack up the Wii U to give to the child of a friend, which will join the Xbox One as systems that didn’t outlast their predecessor on my shelf (GC/Wii and Xbox 360) Admittedly its partially to make way for a Switch, but still- it is hard to carve out time for games, it seems. For me a lot of that is band stuff which brings a lot of socializing and joy to my life but does take large swaths of time out of every week.

    Kind of a tangent: I’m just finishing up the audiobook version of “The Righteous Mind”. It lists 5 or 6 “foundations” of loyalty – liberals tend to stress 3 of the 6 more deeply (Care/Fairness/Liberty), while conservatives have more spread emphasis including Loyalty/Authority/Sanctity. Anyway, the book made me think about the role in my life my church played growing up, but how my need to live in an objectively verifiable way (i.e. free of supernatural explanations that are clearly not universally shared) made me cut out more on my own, but now I’ve regained some of that with the band stuff I mentioned. (One of the bands I’m in actually a kind of mix of band and a weekly “school”, has sort of a charming number of parallels with the Salvation Army church I grew up with – brass music, going out to public performance/recruiting Sunday afternoons, a bit of a hierarchy, even a liturgy of sorts…)

  3. I suspect part of it is the immediacy of new information, whether that information is world events or text or email. And the need/desire to keep up means that there is less time for something else. If you’re working, sleeping some, eating, take care of the kids, and doing what needs to be done around the house, there’s not that much time left for other things, whatever they are. So in that little leftover time, you can choose to watch TV, read, just listen to music, or catch up on the latest information. These days, many of us choose the latter. And for the millennial generation and those who come after, that will be the norm.

    What did we do when we were in our 20s, before we got married? We spent a lot of the extra time with friends doing whatever. We may have played games but only when we weren’t with other people. Once we started working and got married/partnered, we spent less time with our friends and had more time for the other activities. Living with someone doesn’t mean you’re with them 100% of the time. Then all the other things happened and there was less and less time for the relaxing things.

    And we got used to that. Besides, it was difficult to sit quietly when so much was going on around us.

    I’ve been retired for a few years now. I have the time to play the games I never had time for when I was in my 40s and 50s. Sometimes I sit back and read. I’m also very curious so the availability of information is both a blessing and a curse. I can get lost in the Internet in the same way I could get lost in a library.

    Now I grant you that I am not on social media. I have a Facebook account but never use it. I am not on twitter. I don’t miss it but I can see where once you’re there, you might. And there goes the time. And here comes the need to be available and the constant or near constant notifications. And it’s not always enough to simply turn them off. Part of your mind is wondering whether there’s an email you should read or a text or some other message you should answer. And once you’re attached, it’s difficult to become unattached.

    Our culture is becoming always on. Someone who texts you expects an immediate answer. And email is almost the same way. If you’re always on, it’s very difficult to relax.


  1. Our culture is becoming always on – Lost In Mobile

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