Social Media = Information Overload

by Susan Quinn

Social Media is a very powerful tool, but can we even process all the information we are presented with. Are important/relevant messages getting lost in the pile of information overload we all face every day?

Information Overload Leads to Bad Decisions

In a Ted Talks Sheena Iyengar talks about decision making and our capabilities (watch it she is brilliant). She and her team did a study where  they set up honey tasting stations at a grocery store. On day one  there were 6 different types of honey set up to sample and on day two there were 24 different types of honey to sample.

More people did stop to taste  the 24 sample s but only 3% purchased (or could make a decision as to one that they liked). Thought the 6 sample option had less people stop, 30% of those who did were able to make a purchasing decision.

Sheena found that too many options equals:
a. a delay in choosing
b. our decision quality decreases
c.  we are less satisfied with our choice once it is made.

We are fundamentally  disappointment with a lot of the choices we make  Our brains are programmed naturally to process images versus the written word (Neiman Reports, a conversation with Marcel Just) so we can intuitively take in more information form an image, but our main communication is the written word and  the influx of social media is asking us to read and process more and more words every day.

Multitasking, Really?

Multitasking  is a word that I’ve seen popularized recently and I suggest it’s because of information overload – people feel they have to do more than one thing at a time to keep up. But are they really taking things in? I’ve had the multi-tasking conversation with my kids many times; they claim that they are multitasking all the time and have let me know that I ‘need to get in-line with the times, it is just the way the world is headed mom’. I don’t believe they can focus and it drives me up the wall.

How the Brain Processes Information

Here is a great study that shows how the brain processes information by comparing the brain activity when someone was driving alone without distraction, versus when there was someone in the car talking to them. Using a driving simulation program the brain activity was measured in both situations. They found that your brain loses 37% of its processing in the area dedicated to driving when someone starts to talk to you. Interesting fact;  in another part of the study they found that you cannot ignore someone talking because our brains are too automatically programmed to pick it up (from Neiman Reports -watching the human brain process information – a conversation with Marcy Just).

So yes we can multi-task but we are 37% less effective at that task. We have come to a compromise that if you feel you can do something “with your eyes closed” and do not need all of your brain power then we will do something else as well. However, there is too much to process and we are just not programmed to do so. How do we manage our Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn accounts and still get through the day effectively?

Where Do You Draw the Line?

I’d like to think people sacrifice their Twitter feed to pay attention to work but 91% of people say that they sometimes delete or discard work information without fully reading it! (according to Lexis Nexis International Workplace Productivity Survey, White Collar Highlights). As we give and receive more and more information we are reaching cognitive and information overload.

Thanks for reading my thoughts those of you who made it to the end of this post ….

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *