When I learned Wednesday night that Google Reader is shutting down, I literally broke into a sweat. Like many journalists, I’ve come to rely on the 242 RSS subscriptions I manage through Google Reader. It’s the first thing I check every morning — second only to making a cup of coffee — and, along with Twitter and email, one of the top three resources I use to do my job. And honestly, if I had to get rid of one of those, it would be the email.
Every day, a new app or service arrives with the promise of helping people cut down on the flood of information they receive. It’s the natural result of living in a time when an ever-increasing number of news providers push a constant stream of headlines at us every day.
But what if it’s the ways we choose to read the news — not the glut of news providers — that make us feel overwhelmed? An interesting new study out of the University of Texas looks at the factors that contribute to the concept of information overload, and found that, for some people, the platform on which news is being consumed can make all the difference between whether you feel overwhelmed.
With the rise of the Internet, electronic books, blogs and mobile devices, we’re in a time with more information at our fingertips than ever before. Ideas are everywhere. In fact, studies show each individual now receives five times as much information daily as we did a quarter-century ago.
There’s information rushing at you from every imaginable portal, from that smartphone in your pocket to billboards along the highway. Indeed, every day some 300 billion emails are sent, 2 million blog posts are written, and more than 35 million apps are downloaded.
There’s enough information consumed on the Internet to fill 168 million DVDs –every single day. Add to that some 129 million books and counting in the world (at least according to Google’s last estimate), and calling it overload is an understatement. But according to Michel Koopman it’s just an opportunity for knowledge–if you know how to consume and leverage it.
Having information and being informed are not the same thing, and they do not have equal value. If, in what we call “information overload,” we have just enough time to catch an eye-full of headlines from our RSS readers, a cluster of 140-character tweets or pithy commentary on Facebook, then we have an ever-greater need for media literacy – the ability to decode messages in the way news and information are presented.
In a world full of information we seem to be constantly toggling between managing all the new impressions we get on a daily basis and feeling totally overwhelmed by information overload. With the arrival of the Internet we were told that things would become easier – less paper clutter to worry about and more time to enjoy life.
What is information overload? 27 instant messages. 4 text messages. 17 phone calls. 98 work emails. 52 personal emails. 76 email listserv messages. 14 social network messages. 127 social network status updates. 825 RSS feed updates. 30 pages from a book. 5 letters. 11 pieces of junk mail. 1 periodical issue. 3 hours of radio. 1 hour of television. That, my friends, is information overload.
Feeling overwhelmed by the sheer volume of online content? You’re not alone. Keeping up to speed can be nearly impossible these days, with potentially hundreds or even thousands of daily postings competing for your attention from services like Facebook, Twitter, and RSS feeds.
Information overload is affecting more and more of us, as we register for yet more websites which promise to change our working life/give us more time with our families/do our jobs for us. No one tool can ever live up to such grandiose promises, no matter which tech luminary is endorsing the next big thing, but you can definitely save yourself some running around circles with a bit of savvy attention to detail and some initial time investment.
This morning, AideRSS introduced an interesting tool that lets you filter your RSS feeds in Google Reader, flagging only those which have been deemed most important, thanks to criteria you set.
The concept behind a filter like this is to help you tackle information overload by showing a subset of your feeds, highlighting only those which have gained attention by others, through AideRSS’ unique approach, tabulating total number of comments, del.icio.us links, Google links, Diggs, etc.