Overwhelmed and Overcome: Technology Saturation & the Coming Crisis

Post image for Overwhelmed and Overcome: Technology Saturation & the Coming Crisis

Article first published as Overwhelmed and Overcome: Technology Saturation & the Coming Crisis on Technorati.

I slept lousy last night.  In fact, millions of Americans slept lousy last night.  How do I know?  I’ve seen the studies, I’ve talked to my friends, I’ve read the Facebook posts from the middle of the night, and I’ve seen a million Lunesta commercials.  I am a living, breathing, walking personification of what is causing much of this lousy sleep. And many of you are as well, you just don’t know it.

A good friend of mine named Lee Wetherington speaks about something that he believes is changing the way we live in this country.  He calls it ‘saturation’ and he believes that it is the defining problem of the 21st century.  And I believe him.  I believe him not because he knows what he is talking about (he does), but because I am a technology guy who teaches it, uses it, loves it, hates it, lives it and breathes it.  I have experienced this ‘technology saturation’ and it is affecting my life.

So what is it?  It is this… in our society today, because of the amazing proliferation of information available to us at our fingertips 24 hrs a day, we are inundated every day from every direction with information.  We are constantly processing all the various inputs that we deal with… TV, radio, email, instant messaging, text messages, Tweets, Facebook news feeds, and of course the face-to-face interactions that normally happen throughout the day.  All these things are important to us, and we don’t want to miss anything, so now in addition to our laptops that go everywhere with us, we use our smartphones to keep us in touch with all those things when our laptops aren’t within reach.

What the heck did we do before cellphones?  Think of all the things we missed.  I am ‘in touch’ with more people now than at any time in my life.  Friends, family, and acquaintances are closer to me than ever before.  I am knowledgeable about more things now than I ever have been before because I literally have the knowledge of the internet at my fingertips.  I simply configure all my technology tools to feed me the information I want, when I want it.  And that, my friends, is the issue.  I eat so much information that I am swollen with it and beaten over the head by all the information that seeks my attention.  And I am eating as fast as I can.  Takeru Kobayashi ain’t got nothin on me.

So how does this affect me?  Well, you can look at your own life and see for yourself what happens.  We begin to feel anxiety when we are away from our ‘information’.  We can’t shut our brains off at the end of the day and we toss and turn all night long thinking about the things that we forgot to do, need to do, want to do.  We keep pads of paper beside the bed so that we can write down everything that bounces around in our head before we forget it.  We look for more technology tools to help us organize and prioritize our ‘information’, to help us store it, sort it, filter it, and keep it safe.  Because, after all, bad things will happen if we don’t, right?

What eventually happens is that we are bombarded with so much information, and so many choices, that we can’t process everything… kinda like a fire hose being shot at our mouth.   So we do the only thing we can do… we shut down, or more specifically, our brains shut down.   We no longer spend time thinking critically and actually processing things.  After all, we don’t have time, do we?  We have to keep moving.  We switch to autopilot and just move as fast as we can, hoping that in the process we don’t miss anything.  We stay ‘shallow’ with everything and everyone we come in contact with, and we wonder why we can’t remember anything anymore.  All the while, happy as clams at all the wonderful technology tools that buzz, beep, and ding themselves at us to keep us in touch, informed, and connected.  If we keep going like this, we will have a crisis of epic proportions.  Generations will lose the ability to think, to remember, to create.  We will be a society of shallow thinkers, strangled by a noose of technological perfection.

Whew.  I am exhausted just thinking about it all.  So, anybody wanna go get a cup of coffee and just veg out for awhile?  Oh right, sorry, no time.  I have to go answer some emails, tweets, Facebook posts, blog posts, text messages, and ‘check in’ to some places before I lose my mayorships.  I’ll just get some coffee in the drive-thru.

Previous post:

Next post: