Information and Opinion Fatigue
If you are anything like me you feel it. We are inundated with a seemingly infinite amount of information and opinion. I suffer daily from too much input and too little output. I am a research hound, or at least I was. But now the amount of information I have at the touch of a finger is almost paralyzing. I spend much of my time sifting through articles in a haphazard fashion absorbing what I can of them, which is often very little. If the information isn’t academic in nature or relating to the news it is social information. Scores and scores of social information filtered down by Facebook. Social Media algorithms have pinned me for what I am: A Gin swilling political harlequin, drunk and unheard amongst the clamor of his digital peers. I am bombarded by information and in turn I peddle it back at the webosphere in an endless tactless dance of pseudodialectical “communication”. And inevitably, as I sift through my daily dose(s) of information, I stumble upon the generic humdrumity of public opinion. Like a terrible accident on the highway seen on a bus speeding by, I can’t help but look in concern. I am addicted to reading that which pains me: the comments section. Between the amount of information that I pretend I can even come close to processing on the daily and those latent opinions just waiting for me to discover I feel incredibly fatigued. An insomniatic fatigue that could really only be the result of an addiction.
Deprived of senses and sleep I stare at this very screen as I do now scouring for something interesting. I attempt to reject Facebook and Google’s attempt to dictate my reading experience, yet I find myself so often within their boxes. “Out of ease,” I will tell my self. Or the sudden thought of how so-and-so is doing, “I had better check facebook!” I feel stuck in a tightening loop, some sort of noose. This freedom is a noose. For instance, at this moment I have sixteen tiny tabs open on things ranging from the New York Times (another story on Trump), to a blog article on information encryption and another tab open for all the work emails that I am ignoring. I will, at this point, admit that I am much the same way with books. I will often have two or three books on the go at once. But with books I have control. With books the information feels restrained and waiting for me where on the Internet it often feels as if it is attacking me. Another benefit of the book is that the only opinions are mine and the authors and whomever they might be citing. Strangely enough, reading a book with all of its constraints feels like blissful freedom to me.
I often feel like a town gossip with all of the social information I ingest on a daily basis often to be spewed onward into the unsuspecting ears of my partner. It is also a voyeuristic and sometimes secretive thing. A prying vigilance in hope of an omnipresent awareness of my friends’ goings on. I suppose I am overly sentimental. I live far from most of these old friends. Yet I wish to stay connected and in the know for some reason that is likely banal. But this effort to stay connected is so so tiring. Even worse, I don’t have a real clue as to why I do it? But it feels something like an addiction. It is like I am a digital fitness freak seeking continually training for a marathon that I will never run. Or am I, poor Sisyphus and his bolder? Only my punishment is not a rock it is other people, and all their damned information. Punishment is not other people, it is what they know, think and say.
I know most people wouldn’t give a shit about what is going on in my daily life, and likely wouldn’t know a thing if I didn’t bombard my social media profiles with photographic evidence of my comings and goings. But their you have it again, that fading voice in the Din of social media narcissists proclaiming “I live!” with every Facebook update, tweet, or Instagram photo or whatever.
I had lofty hopes for the Internet coming out of the BBS (Bulletin Board Service) era where hobbyists and amateurs (now labeled “makers” or something or other for some reason) worked as small communities creating things together. But now it seems that the Internet has become more a space for recycling opinion, or for defining one’s self through the opinions of others. It has become an overtly curated information superhighway of advertisements.
Out of the thousands of opinions and bits of information I am exposed to everyday, I would say that a slim percentage of them actually matter to me. But there they are. Those bits of info that matter to me are the ones that I can feel change my grey matter in an integral way. Even so, at some point information becomes simulacrum. Opinion becomes farcical. The day is nearing an end and I am sure we are all fatigued.
The root of my concern is not the quality of information or opinion, but the shear amount of it. The Internet is anti-zen. When Zen says “kill the intellect,” the Internet says “feed the intellect.” But without stillness I find it hard to do either. I often want to feed it and then kill it. But for all it is worth, I am living with the Internet out of choice. It is unfortunate, however, with social media, I feel that my choice has become constricted to a dictatorship of opinion. I choose to offend myself daily and to get angry about what I read; therefore, I must choose to take the brunt of it in stride because it is a choice, I only wish people had better things to say and richer things to share on the average.
Whether on social media or found elsewhere my favorite things to see on the Internet are things that people, especially friends, have decided to create. I think this is what keeps me coming back: when I see something extraordinary that someone has created or written, I want to support them as a member of their audience. I want to collect a memory as moment of an achievement! The problem lies in a sort of black hole information paradox of the Internet. Information online is not infinite and certainly decays. It flows in and out of itself. The Internet is a black hole of sorts and I find myself being sucked in and out of it, as information disappears I seem to disappear with it, each time finding it harder to return. A real life lawnmower man. I am too easily sidetracked into this habit of collecting useless data, and these segues into information and data mining take away from my true pleasure of witnessing my creative friends and community. Each day ending with the chosen bombardment of information and its resulting fatigue I ask myself the simple question of “why?” And I am left facing the vacuous nature of addiction in which I am left with no concrete answers. I am a product of my times and my times are in part a product of me.
I am not looking for sympathy or some empathetic response. I write this as practice self-therapy. I write this as a search for some form of Zen space of silence in this media bombarding world; or, maybe I write this as an answer to some old koan about whether or not a sound exists if an ear isn’t present to interpret it. Only this time it is really koan about whether or not information exists if we aren’t the ones to see and interpret it. I guess I will just keep searching until I find out?
What would happen if I took both the red and the blue pill? That must be an option no?