Information is all we consume – without any intelligence put to work. Here’s an everyday scenario: I wake up in the morning and reach out for my phone. First thing, every single morning. And that’s not the sad part. The sad part is that I am doing this even when my brain is groaning and saying No. Even when my eyes are blurry and they do not need the jolt of the blue light to fire up a slow but sure process of vision degeneration. Even when I know this is not good for my morale and I must find a more peaceful to wake up.
But no, here I am. With the rest of us. Unable to resist the lure of information bombardment, easy prey for companies and platforms that have fed us the lie that we have missed much during whatever few hours of sleep we have succumbed to. The information age – here we are.
Yet, more than the direct damage, there is so much more happening that should not be happening. Information, misinformation, polarization due to information, lack of correct information, virality of the wrong information for all the wrong reasons (disclaimer – everything that goes viral is not wrong). And more than anything else – all of us thinking we are intelligent because all of a sudden we think we have all the information we need. Not only do we whip out Google to win arguments, but we actually believe it is always on our side just because it shows us something that agrees with us. Well, the red flag is that it also shows the other party something they agree with. So, that’s a black hole to keep each debate in a never ending spiral of passionate chaos. Still think information makes you intelligent?
Well, try spelling misconception without Autocorrect and only then I will know we have actual brain cells working – brain cells that are now not in the custody of the information age. It seems the more autocomplete we have, the more incomplete our intelligence becomes.
Let’s move on to the next scenario. I am now out of bed, and stumbling my way around the kitchen, phone in hand and Echo or Alexa at the ready to answer any questions about the weather, traffic or anything else. Information that I now cannot do without. Apart from being connected at all times, we are also paying the price for hyper subscription of all our senses. At all times.
Here are a few downsides of information that autocorrects, autocompletes and basically automates everything without a brain cell in sight:
- Risk of polarization
- Self diagnosis of the extreme kind
- Slow down of productivity
- Brain fog and difficulty in decision making
- Opinions rather than aids
Now, one thing we must remember is that information should aid in the shaping of an opinion. Yet, we are basically living on borrowed opinions and adopting them as our own because we believe the information is there.
The truth is, information has to be used – not merely consumed. Let us find a few ways to steer clear of these pitfalls:
- Ask yourself: how does this nugget help me?
- Define the need: am I looking for something to aid something else?
- Stick to the goal: what is the task for which I need this information?
- Refine often: cut out the unnecessary chatter of hashtags, trolls, opinion pieces and loud social media posts.
- Keep it neutral: steer clear of traps that can lead to shaping and reinforcement of an opinion. It can happen very easily when you are scrolling online. Your information will be what you gather after carefully listening to various opinions, backed by facts that you have duly considered.
- Context: which brings us directly to keeping the context alive. One person’s hashtag does not have to be another person’s solution.
- Engage in real life: When you find a piece of information, ask people around you about it too. Especially people from that niche or industry.
- And for Heaven’s sake, do not diagnose yourself.
- Guard your narrative, not the information. Know that facts can change and so can your story.
- Be open. For this, you must also have an open mind and not merely look at your mined information as your property that you must guard against all odds.