Information overload causes anxiety

A partial transcript of my episode 14 of THE ART MOVEMENT. Click here to listen to the show.

“… So, I began to think about that and about how people have, over the past few years, started to talk about how we live in an age where we may have too much information. So, are we overly informed? Well, I recently read an article from two years ago by Oksana Tunikova on medium.com, who mentioned that the volume of information has been growing exponentially since the beginning of the internet and this large volume of information leads to something she defines simply as information overload.

She defines this as “something you’ve likely felt or dealt with at least once. The feeling you get when, after hours of searching the web, you realize there’s so much data in your head that you can no longer think clearly.”

Personally, I know exactly what she is talking about because in my work, I have to do copious amounts of research on the internet. But Tunikova also argues that while theoretically, having so much information at our fingertips should be a good thing, in reality, it seems to do us more harm that good for a few reasons — and she lists a few of them but I can summarize all as a lack of focus and an inability to make decisions as well as an increased sense of anxiety.

Jacques Lacan famously defined anxiety as the opposite of desire but in my opinion, anxiety can also offer opportunity for empowerment. What I mean by that is that I believe that anxiety can be a normal reaction to stressful situations, but it becomes a problem when it is excessive and effects daily functioning. One approach to using anxiety to empower ourselves is to understand it as a message about our own needs. When we start to notice where and when it shows up, we can start trying to understand what it’s trying to tell us.

Frankly, I don’t see any way we can understand what the message of our anxiety is unless we try to stay informed — whether we search for news on current events or look for it in the arts, in books, in paintings, in films, in music and so on. So, in a way, information overload is partly to thank for the current times of change that we are experiencing. And it’s okay to take a break from the internet and other sources of information, to give yourself time to understand and process all that we have taken in and think about how to act upon it — actuating change.”

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