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Birjees Hussain: The information conundrum
July 28, 2018
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Do you sometimes wish that you were back in the 70s, 80s or early 90s? Okay, even if the hairdos weren’t great and the clothes were ‘padded shoulders up to here’ the music was good, the movies were good and, in my view, there was less vulgarity and less skin on display.

There was also a little less information to contend with. Did you know that we are drowning in information and starving for inspiration? That is the message being sent out by stress management Gurus all over the world.

Did you know that we are inundated with more information in day than someone in the Middle-Ages would have experienced in a life time?

Meaning, the moment we turn on our television sets we are bombarded by the terrible news of the day. Or the crazy news of the day. Rarely does a news anchor deliver pleasant information, unless someone won a baseball game or a football match. And if you are not a sports person, the chances are, that too is too much information for you. And this is just on television. But there are other sources of information overload too.

Did you know, for example, that a typical newspaper contains more words than someone in the Middle-Ages might have read in their entire lives? Wow! Can you imagine the ‘peace of mind’ existence these people might have had (that is, aside from the hard graft they had to undergo just to make ends meet)?

But in addition to the television and the newspaper, we also have computers, tablets and mobile phones and all of them are now connected to the internet and have countless apps that enable us to check the news, text messages, postings and updates. So, did you know that, according to research, as a nation, we check our phones for messages, general alerts from search engines, and anything else coming through our devices, more than seven hundred times a day? We do it just before going to sleep, as soon as we’ve opened our eyes in the morning and hundreds of times in between, even when we are in meetings, seminars and with friends.

We are bombarded, left, right and centre, with massive amounts of data that does our brains in. It comes at us in three distinct ways, Quantity, Speed and Quality, the latter becoming ever more critical than, say, ten or fifteen years ago.

Whereas in the ‘olden’ days the quantity of information was limited to the television and newspaper, which we had the choice of either not buying and not turning on, nowadays, our mobile devices have made the choices for us. We are addicted to these devices and are compelled to check them every five minutes. That act alone explains the quantity and speed. Can you imagine the amount of data we might have inadvertently consumed in an hour just by repeatedly checking the devices? Compare that to only turning the television on for the evening news or buying a newspaper, spending an hour reading your favourite sections and you’re done. But now we have a news channels, a newspaper and an entire database of information in our handbags or pockets.

Add to this problem the issue of quality of information. Is it real or is it fake? Who can tell? How do we sift the information so that we are aware that the information we are receiving is not false or, worse, fake information. Regardless of which it is, it has already messed with our heads. This serious issue became apparent in India recently when a fake message going around on WhatsApp resulted in people being beaten by mobs.

Since we have all this information coming at us, where is the inspiration? We want to be inspired to be better people. To do things that make us, and those around us, happier and better people. To do things that give us a break from all the nonsense going on around us.

The truth is there is rarely any inspiration in the information we receive. We have to find it ourselves. We can inspire ourselves.

Turn off your device for a while or put it on silent. Then schedule a time of day when you will check your device for emails or messages, and stick to that schedule. Now find out what you love to do and try it. Take up a hobby that requires you to be out and about or at the very least not connected to an electronic device. Give yourself peace of mind, even if it is for half a day.

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The author specialises in subjects from health to social issues
 

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