I’ve meant to write about this article / “study” that popped up all over the internet in September. But I’ve been too busy and haven’t gotten around to it. Good thing that my reason for being busy isn’t the Information Overload that I’ve complained about to you in the past.
How do I know that it wasn’t Information Overload. Well, an academic study by an associate professor of communication Eszter Hargittai at Northwestern University told me so. And it’s a good thing that I’m not overloaded from seeing it on Social Media Today via a Google Plus post by +Keith Kmett. Or any of dozens of other places on the net. It was a trending meme for almost a week. (How long can I keep up this level of snark and sarcasm? Let’s ask Steve… Ah… Apparently the answer is “ever since I’ve met you”)
How do I complain about the study… Let me count the ways…
First off, it’s a survey of 77 total participants. Seriously? Seriously! And all were on vacation in Las Vegas.
Next, the question was only about how they felt about the amount of information in the broadest sense. News and entertainment and gossip.
“There’s definitely some frustration with the quality of some of the information available,” said Hargittai. “But these frustrations were accompanied by enthusiasm and excitement on a more general level about overall media choices.”
Right there, that tells you several things about what’s going on. First it’s clear the authors are looking at media choices. Having lots of choices for places to find things isn’t what Information Overload is about. Not at all. Heck, it’s not even about having too many choices at one time. That’s The Paradox of Choice as presented by psychologist Barry Schwartz in his TED talk and his book.
Information Overload is about when you have to find something. Not when things are optional. Not when it doesn’t matter what’s on the TV or on the front of the Google News webpage. No, Information Overload happens when you have a task and all the extra stuff gets in the way.
People are able to get their news and information from a diverse set of sources and they seem to like having those options.”
Well of course. If you feel like these are all options. But when it’s something you must find. You have to get. You need to know. That is what makes it different. That’s when the emotion of overload takes over.
The few participants who did feel overwhelmed were often those with low Internet skills, who haven’t yet mastered social media filters and navigating search engine results, Hargittai noted.
Right… because none of the 77 people in Las Vegas on vacation were web power users who have tons of tools (not “social media filters“). You know the kind, the ones who have 1000+ feeds in their RSS Reader. Who have set up a ton of custom Google searches on their regular topics. Who use 3rd party services on top of Twitter, G+, LinkedIn and Facebook. And who, still, blow past those tools with the volume and complexity. People like you all out there reading this on the Bscopes Blog.
What do you say? Am I nuts? (Wait… don’t answer that.) Is there really a Myth of Information Overload? Or is it real? And a real problem. Let us know what you think in the comments below.