Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Information overTWEET

The blog of a friend kept showing up in my inbox. I felt guilty not reading it each week, and couldn't get it to go into my junk mail. Then I saw the unsubscribe button. 

Click. No more weekly navel-gazing posts.

How was I to know that my friend would be notified?

This scary personal story was shared by a victim of e-nnoyance: the new peril of information overdose attacking us from the abyss of the internet vastness. Continuous Partial Attention is already a recognized psychological phenomenon, which probably will be beyond grasp of the representatives of my generation, but those in their teens right now have no issues whatsoever texting on their cellphones, browsing the web and watching TV at the same time.

Are we really becoming unable to live without the modern devices of staying in touch. I can't help recalling the character of Drew Barrymore in He's Just Not That Into You complaining how she checks her blackberries, e-mails, cell phones and gets rejected by all those multiple technologies and misses the times when there was just one phone with one answering machine and the answering machine either had a message on it or it did not.

Have you heard of a term "a blackberry prayer"? I was frantic when I heard it for the first time from one of our professors. Respectable-looking ladies and gentlemen looking into their zippers in deep concentration one-on-one with their smart friends, pretending to pay attention to what is going around. Friends on Facebook are not real and the Twitter updates carry less and less informational value. In another Drew Barrymore movie (Ever After), the step-mother said that one should not speak unless it improves the silence. True as ever.

Communicating all the time, snow-balling the information with "sharing" and "retwitting", creating tons of "noise" with own webpage, blogs and livejournals - information has become a commodity. Retaining knowledge in one's head is a faux pas: regarded as something antique - why do you need to learn something when you can just google it? How do we sort through the weeds and divide the ideas from stuff? Unless there is some sort of an algorithm or a magic trick, the rate of hitting the "unsubscribe" button will be soaring soon.

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