The constant availability of countless links, blog posts, commentary sites, e-mails, and tweets pull at me. They all flash before my eyes on my digital devices, buzzing around like a pesky fly, tempting me to deal with the itch.
So I usually do.
I wake up and, before commuting to work, see if any headlines at SI.com pique my interest, then scan the 10-day weather report to target optimal hunting days. I suppose that’s the equivalent of skimming through a hardcopy newspaper.
But I check e-mail too often. I click on links when I know they have little chance of revealing redeeming qualities. Sometimes, I feel like I end up clicking on links or typing in URLs out of reflex, before even thinking about what I’m actually doing.
This type of behavior seems to reinforce Nicholas Carr’s thesis in The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains: our neural pathways are being rewired as we embrace and use different technological tools. I certainly don’t enjoy the sensation of being subconsciously moved to swat at the information itch, but I do generally enjoy sifting through the deluge.
Cheri Lucas Rowlands at Writing Through the Fog writes, “not much is gained from scouring and consuming as much as we can on the internet.” I agree. While the mere act of reading is pleasurable to me, Rowlands makes me question my own information consumption patterns as she continues, “…that’s all I need. One intriguing, thoughtful story per day, relevant to my interests, rather than a flood of information through me, three-fourths of which doesn’t add real value to my day.”
Unlike Rowlands, who works as a writer and editor, I don’t have a fear of missing out on the best links and stories of the day. My teaching demands don’t require me to be constantly up to speed on trending Twitter topics and other issues, so when I do feel like I’m working on overdrive to keep up with or consume digital information, it’s usually by choice.
Do you feel addicted to information? What web-curation sites/strategies do you use? How much digital information that you sift through each day do you retain? Does it matter? How do we find that one worthwhile story?