Informational Isolationist 718.3

Help! I need a strategy to deal with information overload. I want to be a good citizen with informed opinions about significant events, but I just can’t keep up.

Surely, the colossal, ongoing consequences of the earthquakes, tidal waves, and nuclear leaks in Japan justify sustained and serious attention.

But so do the uprisings in the Middle East and Northern Africa. I barely understood Tunisia’s revolution when I had to shift to Egypt and then to Libya with sporadic glances at headline-worthy events in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Syria, and the Ivory Coast.

I feel like I’m in the midst of a never-ending meal with each course served so quickly there’s no time to digest the previous one.

As my attention shifts to each new event, I know that the tumult caused by each previous front-page story does not subside simply because I follow the spotlight elsewhere.

And as my guilt mounts about my shallow understanding of international events, I feel even more guilt about how much I don’t know about our own political troubles and tensions – Congressional gridlock and imminent nasty fights about taxes, deficits, and the true implications of federal and state budget cuts.

I suppose I can live with not knowing why 5,000 red-winged blackbirds fell dead in Arkansas and what happened to hundreds of turtle doves found dead in Italy with blue stains on their beaks, but do I have to sacrifice keeping up with the Lakers, Charlie Sheen’s exploits, and Tiger Wood’s comeback?

I’m tempted to surrender and become an informational isolationist, but that just doesn’t seem responsible. Any suggestions?

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 15

  1. In my humble opinion, isolating oneself from information, is isolating yourself from the world.
    Granted, many Hollywood stories are of little concern to me, however, wars, acts of God, national deficits, etc. I try to be aware of, partly to learn (to prevent future mistakes) and partly to help (through charitable donations if I can).
    My uncle called me about a tsunami warning for the California coast when the earthquake hit Japan. If he isolated himself from information, he could not warn me.
    Bottom line, keeping yourself informed can save a life – maybe even yours.
    Keep writing the great articles and take care.

  2. I generally believe that the media, and websites in particular, do a pretty miserable job of presenting information in a format which is thorough. I don’t know if this is because the general public’s attention span is so short that they cannot be expected to read lengthy articles, and therefore read only the headlines and a few basic “facts” which fail to elucidate. I do believe however that it speaks to the definition of “news” itself. Many years ago, my middle school journalism teacher challenged us to come up with a definition of the term. Most agreed that editors usually chose stories that could be described as “unusual.” In other words, a story about accident victims would be more likely to run as opposed to someone following a normal routine. I recall disagreeing with that approach. I still believe that news should focus on the

  3. Michael – Take my suggestion and never sacrifice your time keeping up with the Lakers – the season will be over too soon 🙂
    Take each day for what it is and enjoy every moment. Continue to be a good person and do what you can to help others do the same. Focus on the important things in life. As Colin Cowherd often says “Love your Kids, Like your Sports Team”. Keep it all in perspective and keep reminding us each day that “Character Counts” (a quote from one of my favorite public figures)
    Thanks so much for the inspiration you have provided in my daily life. You are truly a pillar of our society!
    Pam (

  4. Try you can chose from a list of topics and issues
    that you are interested in. Plus a sumary of current
    events on the legislative scene local,state, National
    and in addition when you put in your Zip it pulls up all contact
    information on your local,national elected leaders thus allowing you to express your opinion before the vote is taken.
    Bonus there is a Research Center available 24/7 (free of Partisan political opinion)

  5. I read the commentary while reading morning email barrage including requests for at least six meetings, 3 of which are for today. It all can get overwhelming. Someone recently asked, Do you remember Alvin Toffler’s 1970 book, Future Shock? He spoke of this very issue of information/data overload. The future is here and now. I wonder what impact this is having upon our children who, while growing up as digital natives where multi-tasking is the norm, still need skills to sort out what is important. The challenges continue.

  6. I struggle with this issue, plus balancing my kids’ and my life and protecting them from the disturbing images, false “news” and premature panic found on the TV news.
    So I became pretty isolated, figuring that it’s just not my time to be that involved. Now is my time to focus on my children, solving the issues of our days and contributing to the solutions in our immediate community. That I could handle.
    Two days ago, my ten-year-old, not knowing any of this, says, “My friends seem to know more about the world around us. We should watch the news so I don’t feel so isolated.”
    The battle rages on.

  7. After almost 20 years of working as a chemist in the environmental field, I joined academia where I not only continued to teach in environmental issues but also started mentoring student research in forensic science. Throughout this time period, I have also tried to keep myself as current as possible on the political issues that are impacting our lives on a daily basis. Consequently, I truly understand your angst about not keeping current

  8. The method I use to keep up with events is simply to use CNN as my home page for the internet. Every time I’m online, I will catch one or two major stories. Since I’m online quite often during the usual workday, I become aware of many interesting issues by the end of the day and can filter out the Hollywood drivel from stories that I should learn more about. I can follow an interesting event on any other news site that I choose, or I catch local and national news on TV as time allows.
    Any major news website would offer the same national and world events information and provide links that allow you to investigate more at will.
    I also keep in mind that I won’t ever know everything about everywhere in the age of information and I accept that.
    Thank you for your commentaries and opinions. They offer a respite from the hectic day.

  9. I take a far different approach for managing the constant onslaught of information than the majority of people do – I ignore most of it. To understand why, when presented with new information, ask yourself this simple question: What will you do with the information? Certainly, when a tragedy like the Tsunami occurs it’s important to be aware of it so you can take an appropriate action – make a donation, contact a loved one, or warn others. However, there’s no reason to follow the story after that. For example, once you knew about the Tsunami and took whatever action you were going to, of what further value is additional information on that subject?
    I think for most people they ingest news simply for the sake of entertainment or so they can engage in conversation about it. I choose to spend my time pursuing more valuable activities, like reading your commentaries, which teach valuable lessons.

  10. How interesting that I even read this and replying as I too have this problem of balancing information with the time I have. I’m 78 and you will find as you age time somehow is fleeting and you get less done. I can’t figure that out.
    Regarding the informational situation; I’ve stopped newspapers, paring the magazines, bought a Ipad last week, and struggling to sort things out so I don’t spend so much time with iformation coming in. I joined a writers club and hope to spend more time dishing it out.

  11. This is a great topic. You are probably not alone in feeling this way. Sensational media, alarmists, the constant debate of the economy and everything and anything that’s intertwined… Recently trying to decipher or pull credible non-biased facts out of the media’s reporting feels like a forensic investigation to me. It’s just lately that I have taken to turning the radio off on my morning and evening commute. The sound of nothing has never felt so good…

  12. I suggest you simply do as we Working Mothers do: choose 2 or 3 topics which are of your interest and follow them as time allows. Just because all this information is available to us does not mean we are required to pay attention to it. We should mainly be spending our time on the important things in life such as: Family, Faith, Friends, Business, Giving, and Healthy Pursuits.

  13. I have to go back to Covey’s “circle of influence” and “circle of concern.” There are many things I am concerned about, such as the environment, the tsunami, the war on terror, etc. If I spend all my time learning about and discussing and worrying about these things that I can do nothing about, I will waste all my time, energy, and hope.
    I try to spend time in my circle of influence. If I’m concerned about the tsunami victims, I can make a donation. If I’m concerned about the environment, I can make sure I recycle, and work on programs and awareness in my community. I need to know about the war on terror enough to be safe, but I can only live my life in a way that is non-violent, loving and peaceful. I can support our troops through local efforts.
    When I hear about awful things ongoing, such as how many dead in Japan, I stop, pray, and then try to find the courage to live on each day in a way that makes the world a better place. I don’t have to know everything.
    It helps me to keep perspective, and to try to be the change I want to see in the world. Otherwise, I would never sleep at night.

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