RSS feeds barrage us with refreshed information every 15 minutes or less. Our email boxes are swollen with priority messages and action-needed immediacy. Add the ceaseless torrent that is broadcast news cycle, and even the quaint anachronism of the morning paper. The flood of information and demand for prioritization pounds on you like a prizefighter.
Then, some Web 2.0 guru comes along and tells you to relax, assures you that it’s all manageable. Download a few apps. Integrate your calendars. Align your platforms. Don’t worry, they proclaim, you can control it all, account for it all, and what’s more, absorb it and ultimately benefit from it.
The amount of info is beyond overwhelming. It’s simply impossible to keep up with every source, feed, stream and conversation. So stop trying to.
To preserve your sanity and still enjoy all that content and interaction, you need a little inverse logic. Don’t try to participate in everything. Instead, we now need to be more selective than ever. We need to skim headlines and decide instinctually whether or not the content is worth our time. If it’s not, don’t hesitate, don’t wallow in guilt — move on. Pick up the paper and check the front page. If something jumps at you, fine. Nothing? Get the weather, get the scores, then get moving.
We’re seeing too many friends, acquaintances and co-workers succumbing to social media informational overload. They’re on the verge of tears, especially when they try to balance it with all the pop culture obligations we’re also asked to absorb. You’re trying to digest a magazine article, responding to an IM, re-organizing your email inbox, updating your Twitter feed and Facebook status, and someone has the temerity to ask whether or not you saw Modern Family last night, or are digging in for the MLB division series.
We say enough. Stop trying to please everyone. Stop thinking you’re obligated to engage in every conversation. Pick the few that are most important to you; disengage on a daily basis from the unessential. That will be different for each of us, and will change constantly, but you need to do it if you don’t want to drown. We’ve been there ourselves, meeting deadlines, maintaining our online presence, finding time for social media efforts as well as face-to-face interaction. In the midst of all that, there’s also family, friendships, and that nearly forgotten concept of personal time.
Physician and wellness champion Andrew Weil recommends taking intermittent “news fasts” — weekly breaks where you don’t pick up a newspaper, access a news website, or turn on your TV at 11 p.m. Taking a few of these ourselves, we’ve seen the benefit of disengaging from all that informational stimuli. You get back in the mix with a much sharper sense of what’s important and what is worthy of your time. Give it a try, then see how you approach managing your web presence, social media participation, and informational inflow. Odds are you’ll quickly determine what can be culled, and what is really worth the trouble. Once you know what involvement matters most to you, you’re ability to manage those spaces and concentrate on generating truly relevant messages is bound to be better.
(Of course, you should still read Off-Piste . . . )