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Are You Suffering From Information Overload?
For at least the past 20 years, pundits and analysts have bemoaned the plague of information overload. However, there's been a genuine shortage of hard data documenting the damage done.
For at least the past 20 years, pundits and analysts have bemoaned
the plague of "information overload" as we've tended to focus on the
sheer volume of information and the proliferation of alternatives.
However, there's been a genuine shortage of hard data documenting the
Now, new research says we may have exaggerated the adverse impact of
today's always-on media environment on our well-being. In fact,
according to a new Northwestern University study published in the
journal The Information Society, very few Americans seem to
feel "bogged down" or "overwhelmed" by the volume of news and
information at their fingertips and on their screens.
Most of the previous literature on information overload dynamics has
involved people in unconventional situations, like fighter pilots or
battlefield commanders. To better understand how everyday Americans
perceive the amount of information available through traditional and
new media, researchers recruited vacationers in Las Vegas to participate
in focus groups.
Seven focus groups were conducted with 77 total participants from
around the country. The small, informal focus groups helped to reveal
participants' strategies for finding news, entertainment, and gossip.
Contrary to popular belief, the high volume of information available
these days seems to make most people feel empowered and enthusiastic.
People are able to get their news and information from a diverse set of
sources and they seem to like having these options.
Most of the participants said television was their most frequently
used medium, followed closely by Web sites. When asked how they felt
about the amount of information available to them, few mentioned feeling
overwhelmed or that they suffered from "information overload."
Participants had near-unanimous enthusiasm about the new media environment. Online news was regarded more positively than TV news.
Cable news was often criticized for its sensationalism and stream of repetitive stories. Trivial social media posts and opinionated political pundits are top sources of frustration when seeking information.
There's definitely some frustration with the quality of some of the
information available. But these frustrations were accompanied by
enthusiasm and excitement on a more general level about overall media
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