Too much information, running through my brain.
Too much information, driving me insane.
--The Police, 1982
A close friend of mine emailed me recently:
I have 5 email addresses. As of today I have 5,140 songs on my iPod, and I'm considering purchasing a second one. I have Tivo, which is now stacked with shows that I consider interesting and worth watching. I subscribe to 4 podcasts, 3 magazines and 2 newspapers. I send and receive a minimum of 80 work related emails per day--often more than 100. I have voicemail at work, on my mobile and at home.
Your blog is a current of wind in the hurricane that is media in my (and your readers’) lives. Of course it's important to me, but how can we get it noticed above the din of the everyday?
Admittedly, my buddy is a little obsessive/compulsive and suffers from a seriously short attention span. But he's also a prototypical media connoisseur and gadget hound who is drowning under the wave of writing and music available to us all.
Now the blog-savvy smart ass will simply smirk and say, “Dude. RSS. Bloglines.” True enough, But I think he brings up something larger:
We're choking on information.
It’s one of those subversive facts about the Internet: we all supposed to feel so “empowered” because we have all these facts at our disposal. Because we can make our voice heard. And don’t get me wrong, it’s great, the most important invention since the printing press.
But at the same time, my resources far outstrip my time. Sure I can check seven to ten websites and blogs to de-spin something, but it's not practical. Instead, this gnawing doubt that I'm missing out follows me around like a stray dog. And I find myself diving deeper into the Long Tail, mostly discovering new things that match my current tastes and beliefs.
(Fortuntely, Long Tail filters like Amazon, CDBaby and Technorati present the staggering wealth of information in small, suggested chunks. Otherwise I'd go completely bonkers.)
Here's the thing: There are thousands of whip-smart people out there writing blogs that I’d love to read, that I "need" to read, even. But I choose not to sacrifice that much of my time. I’m not a superhero like Mr. Scoble, nor did I buy a ticket on the Cardboard Spaceship.
Marketers and pundits keep telling us that this smorgasbord of choice is a great thing. I'm not so sure. The other day at the grocery store I counted 23 different flavors of single-serving Odwalla juice. 23! And not one of them was what I wanted— plain old apple. As I write this, Technorati is watching 8,479,411 blogs and tracking 1,019,959,253 links. It boggles the mind.
Studies have shown that when confronted with too many choices, we’re apt to do nothing. Or if we do make a decision, we wonder if it was the “best” choice and feel less satisfied about the whole damn thing. Seth Godin talks a little about it here .
I don’t have a specific solution, except what I described in The wisdom of las ondas. Hugh MacLeod over at Gaping Void once blogged something to the effect of “Stop worrying about the technology. Concentrate on trust instead.”
He was talking about marketer anxiety, but I think it applies to dealing with our mega-networked life as well. Let's stop worrying so much about all the information we're missing. Let's concentrate on what we choose to enjoy instead.