In consuming many articles and talks on information overload, I hear the same thing repeated: if we can improve the way that information is filtered, and reduce the non-relevant items from the stream of information coming at us, we can alleviate the problem of information overload. I find that quite the reverse is true. Information filtering, especially social information filtering, has gotten so good that now I truly feel that I can’t keep up. After not going to NYT, Google Reader, Twitter, and Facebook for a few days (or at least quickly closing the browser window if I happened to have gone there out of habit), I felt strangely removed. One person told me that Ted Stevens had died in a plane crash, and it was news to me. Today I gave in. There is something about paper writing that kicks my browsing into high gear. Arts & Letters Daily had links to articles on ugliness and tenure (separate articles), NYT most emailed list had an article on Netflix buying streaming rights, and living life with less stuff (hah!). My dad had been documenting some fascinating insect behavior on his website. Opening up my Twitter feed, just on the first page I found out that Bob Kraut had been awarded the Golden Fleece award in 1980, that there is a Social Computing conference CFP, that Twitter has bigger penetration in Brazil than the US, that danah had participated in a privacy debate at the Supernova conference, a fun comic illustrating what a PhD is, etc. I also looked at my Facebook feed (above the fold), I don’t even have to tell you about that.
I look back on the days when I would turn my TV, computer, etc. off because the cost of searching for good stuff outweighed the benefit of consuming it. Even just a few years ago, it was a treat to get a pointer to an article or a new show. Now there is a firehose spewing interesting content all the time. Help!