No Wonder I’m Dumber By The Day

Posted: November 3rd, 2010

Image by Jypsygen (Flickr)

Image by Jypsygen (Flickr)

The Joy of Being An Information Broker

There is not a day that goes by where I marvel at the whole Twitter hootenanny. Check the ticker, come across an article or some clever humor, read it, retweet it . Repeat.

Of course, I make my own contributions by choking down my own RSS feedbag and adding on to everyone else’s endless ticker. It’s somewhat comforting knowing that I’m doing my little part to provide something useful to others while simultaneously enhancing their eye strain.

I haven’t given it much thought until recently, though, about the whole process of the read and retweet. Sharing information is done in quite a volume no matter whether good, bad, so-so or funny but how is all this information getting used?

Well, if it has entertainment value, you get your kicks for five seconds and move on. But an article or blog post? Maybe you’ll spend a minute and think “wow, this might be useful” then bookmark it only never to return to it again.

Over time, doesn’t it end up to scanning even good reads and leave it at that? They pretty much pass through one eye, juggle around the brain then fly out the other as fast as you read the post. I’d say this effect is multiplied by the factor of the thousands of tweets racked up under your username.

Unfortunate Unlearning of One of Our Most Basic Skills

What I’ve really noticed, though, is an interesting phenomenon resulting from this cycle. My attention span has dwindled to somewhere between that of an infant and my neighbor’s cat. I end up scanning everything, even the important emails and articles that I want to read and understand.

I’ve always attributed this to simple information overload and lack of attention=brain is full, go for a walk. Oddly, this effect did happen to continue even if  Twitter was skipped for a few days to get that “RT” tattoo removed from my head.

Slightly worried, I naturally visited the usual doctor,  Google, to see what the big brother had to say. Lo and behold, he came up with an answer. Are you ready for this? Attention deficit… trait or its common name ADT.

Here’s a definition of ADT from Dr. Edward Hallowell (from CNET):

It’s sort of like the normal version of attention deficit disorder. But it’s a condition induced by modern life, in which you’ve become so busy attending to so many inputs and outputs that you become increasingly distracted, irritable, impulsive, restless and, over the long term, underachieving. In other words, it costs you efficiency because you’re doing so much or trying to do so much, it’s as if you’re juggling one more ball than you possibly can.

Then there is this lovely tidbit from Time:

If it’s not getting in your way, forget about it. But if you find that you’re having an awful lot of conflicts and not liking life very much, and you’re making quick decisions without giving them the thought they need, then you need to do something about it.

Do I Finally Have An Out From Social Media?

Somehow, I find it a little troubling that I might be on the way to a doom of long-term underachievement from a disorder yet-to-be-made-official. Luckily, the hating life symptom hasn’t appeared yet but Dr. Google is on call in case it does.

Now, however, comes the moment of truth. Give up Twitter, checking the RSS feed, reading blogs and go back to whatever I did before (eat, drink and be merry). Maybe take a long (permanent) walk?

Nah, I think I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing. I enjoy my Twitter friends and they need me too (I think).

Plus an ADT pill should be out on the market soon anyway.

Are You Digesting Too Much Information?

Posted: January 14th, 2010

Photo by True2source (Flickr)

Photo by True2source (Flickr)

I came to a realization a while back sifting through my Firefox bookmarks… Am I really putting all those great articles and advice that I come across through tweets and stumbles to great use?

The answer is, sadly, not even close. I was essentially reading and forgetting as if I were reading newspapers.

I went as far as to give myself my own professional self-diagnosis and came up with the following: I was suffering bad indigestion from information overload.

Well, I found a little system that helped me make better use of the information I come across while, at the same time keeping my brain from shrieking. Hopefully you can use these, too, in the same manner.

1. Clean Out The Reader and Bookmarks

When having that daily peek at the list of subscriptions in my reader, I would always get that feeling as if I were doing a chore when thinking about going through that long ass list. Rather counterproductive I say.

It doesn’t take long to go through the subscriptions and delete out those blogs that haven’t been updated in two months or that you don’t find useful anymore. By doing this, not only will this save you time having to filter through to get to the articles of interest, but you’ll get back to looking forward to those articles as well.

The same goes for those bookmarks. Time to take inventory of the ones you really use and delete out those you don’t.

2. Don’t Bookmark Those Massive Lists

These are pretty easy to tell by the “100 Resources to…” title. These are often great compilations but the fact is you aren’t going to utilize every single one of those links. Plus, after bookmarking the page and referring back to it later, you tend to forget and have to read through the hundred items just to remember what you liked.

The trick is to take the time to visit those links that interest you inside the resource post and bookmark those instead.

3. Sorting The Bookmarks You Save

I started a rather simple method for bookmarking articles so they are easy to refer back to. First I created three folders where recent bookmarks I saved are kept for a review later:

  • Advice I’ll apply right now
  • Advice to apply later
  • Inspiration

These can be whatever depending on how you like to categorize. Rather than directly filing bookmarks to some random folder, where it likely won’t be seen or used again, I use these folders as a sort of holding pen so I can easily go back and see what I saved recently. This is of no use, though, unless you…

4. Consistently Review Your Bookmarks

On a weekly basis, I look through those folders I created and review those bookmarks, revisiting those links as well. Reviewing bookmarks a second time has the effect of putting those pages to memory. I can now file them away in another folder and remember where they are at in case I ever need to refer back to them again.

Sometimes you find that a bookmark you saved may no longer have any use. Now is a good time to delete it before you clutter up your bookmark folders all over again.

5. Use Stumbleupon To Save Links

Stumbleupon is a great way to have a record of all those links you come across. Download the toolbar and  use the “thumbs up” button on any and all pages that interest you even if you don’t bookmark any for later use.

Once in a while, I’ll get the need to refer back to a page that I didn’t bookmark but, instead, thumbed up in Stumbleupon. By clicking on the “Favorites” button in the toolbar you can visit your Stumbleupon page with all the pages you gave a thumbs up (or down) to.

You can then narrow your search by typing in keywords in the “Search your favorites” box to find that link you were after. It is far more clutter-free for your bookmark folders by sticking with Stumbleupon to save those links you normally would bookmark but hardly use again.

6. Take a Day (or Two) Off From Your Computer

I don’t know about you but, after visiting so many blogs and digesting so much information, I tended to burnout. Then I would read those good blog posts but then immediately forget them and not apply the good info contained in them.

Taking just one day off from your computer breaks that cycle so, when you return, you’re refreshed and more at tune when going back through the reader and visiting those blogs and websites again.

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Do you find these techniques useful? Are there any methods that you use to counter the “information overload” from reading so many blogs or visiting so many websites? Drop a comment below and let me know!