Information Overload? Turn Off! Tune Out!

Well, this one is a little hard to believe, at first glance, anyway, but some of the iPod/iPhone generation, in a reaction to information overload, have had enough and are turning off their gadgets - or so reports the Boston Globe (soon itself, perhaps, to become a victim of the rapidly-changing sands of the information delivery landscape).

As the article reports, these people aren't luddites; they're just turning their attention to other matters. And there's reason to believe this will become an increasingly-common phenomenon (although certainly not a trend) over the next few years, I think, for two key reasons. First, we're at the tail end of the First Great Web Era, when everything is possible, business models are impossible to evaluate, hype reigns supreme, and users try new things just because they're available, and usually at no charge. This had led to all kinds of services or dubious value with respect to return on investment (for both supplier and user), both financially and in terms of time. Now, determining the best use of one's time is always a serious challenge; it's perhaps best evaluated in light of whether a particular activity gets one closer to one's life goals. Unfortunately, too much of what the Web has brought us is a complete waste of time, having at best entertainment value in a society already awash in entertainment. Entertainment has ROI, of course, but it's of short-term value unless you're the entertainer. The core reason for the current recession is that we're not creating much of long-term value, especially in the US, at present, and the Web may be one reason why.

And second, there's simply too much really raw data being made available at a frightening pace. Not only does this lead to information overload and an incentive to drop out so as to focus on activities of greater perceived value, but also much of the data presented is of apocryphal and perhaps even destructive origin. There are nearly an infinite number of ways we can spend our time; given that life has a finite duration, being in constant contact with drivel makes no sense, at least to me. Perhaps what's really going on here is a bit of ego self-massage, as I first observed with early add-on screen saver programs. It was hard to get the computer to do anything at all back then, but adding more toasters to the screen saver gave one an immediate sense of accomplishment (along the lines of "look what I did, mommy!") and a feeling of power over an unforgiving appliance but with no real underlying value beyond that. But, really, couple too much drivel with later regrets and the fact that few people really care what you're doing right now, and we have a serious waste of time and productivity. Everyone needs an editor, or perhaps a coach.

I don't think any of this will have much impact on mobile IT, mobile devices, or mobility in general. But, I must confess, I leave my handset off except when I absolutely need to use it, and rarely post blog entries, or anything else, from my handset.

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