Information overload

Information overload

Column by Kay Frances

In the old days, if you wanted information, you got up from the couch and walked to the public library. You’d go to the card catalog, find what you were looking for, take the card to the circulation desk and ask them to help you find it. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit that I never did understand the Dewey Decimal System, much to the irritation of my local librarians. I can just hear them at their staff meetings, “Seriously. What is WRONG with people? It’s not that hard!”

So, in the old days, you had the capability of learning about 1.5 facts per week.

Another source of information was encyclopedias. Several of the families in our neighborhood had full sets of them displayed proudly in a bookcase in their living rooms. These were primarily sold by door-to-door salesmen which explains why my family never had a set. My parents never opened the door to salesmen. When someone would knock on the door, my mom would peer out the kitchen window as my dad bellowed, “Who IS it?” Mom would holler back, “It’s a SALESMAN! Everybody HIDE!!”

Never has information been more readily available than it is now. Most people have a computer or a smart phone and you can do a quick search to find out anything you want to know. In the old days, you would settle your arguments with a duel. Now you can do a quick search on your phone to find out who is correct on any given dispute and will have instant bragging rights.

The downside is that we have information overload. Years ago, the national news was only 30 minutes, so you just got the big picture. Now we have cable stations with 24-hour coverage. There really isn’t more to cover than there used to be, but they find a way to say the same thing 146 different ways.

A lot of people get their information from social media. They believe what someone they knew from grade school says when they never trusted them to begin with. I trust them about as much as my parents trusted door-to-door salesmen. There is an overall attitude of “well, if it’s on the internet, it must be true.”

We used to have to trust doctors. Now, we are all experts. All you have to do is plug your symptoms into a search engine and everything you need to know about your condition is conveniently delivered to your device. No pesky eight years of medical school necessary! So, when the doctor tells you that you have a sinus infection, you can smugly let him or her know that what you really have is rickets. Or an allergic reaction to pencil lead. Then, sit back and bask in your righteousness. That’s right. Doctors don’t know EVERTHING.

Sometimes I yearn for the days when things were simpler and information was easier to decipher. Maybe someday I’ll finally learn the Dewey Decimal System. I’m sure there’s an app for that.

Salt Magazine