“One of the basic human rights is to reach up-to-date information any time they need. Still, such necessity arises somewhat excessively in today’s world resulting in adverse effects of irrelevant, redundant and low-value information also known as Information Pollution, which might have a negative effect in our daily activities and manifest itself in broad and various formats.”
According to Albert Einstein, “Information is not knowledge”. It is the communication or reception of knowledge through investigation, study and instructions. Human beings are exposed to information since the first moments of their lives and in spite of not being trained they achieve giving back information through their proud statement of arrival, through crying. Personally, I look at people as “black holes”. We have the capacity to absorb and gather knowledge both directly, when we need to or want to, and indirectly, when our senses involuntarily catch pieces. For instance, children by each passing day relate words to their meanings. There is undeniably a wide variety of information sources and transmitters, such as: books, the mass media (including the Internet, newspapers, magazines, and films), and mobile phones. Although the first announcement bulletins date back in Ancient Rome, although the first newspaper appeared at 1605 in Germany and the internet, firstly used for war purposes, was discovered at 1969; the greatest impact of Information Revolution has struck in the 1990s. The Information Revolution has enabled many people to actualize their dreams and satisfy their curiosity by learning nearly any concept. However, a simple question arises. What is the main drawback of this revolution? The answer comes even more naturally. Information pollution, which is defined as the contamination of information supply with irrelevant, redundant, unsolicited and low-value information. Today, in the age of technology there is constant access to vast amounts of information. The basket overflows; people get overwhelmed; the eye of the storm is not so much what goes on in the world, it is the confusion of how to think, feel, digest, and react to what goes on. Therefore, this phenomenon may be considered as a threat to our everyday life and activities. In my opinion, we all ought to comprehend the causes and different forms information pollution is exhibited, in order to tackle it.
There are two major causes leading to Information Pollution. The first has to do with our concept of receiving and having information. Information is seen as a weapon. That is why too much of it is never enough. This is an extravagant demand that at the end of the day does no good, because a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. Seneca would say “distringit librorum multitudo”, which means the abundance of books is distraction. People today are in danger of drowning in information; but, because they have been taught that information is useful, they are more willing to drown than they need be. Additionally, regardless the demand, which is obviously high, the publishing and marketing industries have been used to printing excessive amounts of books, magazines and brochures just in case they are needed. As a result not only the information is polluted, but also the environment is menaced, primarily due to the cutting of woods for paper. It is also shocking knowing that in 1995 there were only five million computers having Internet access and just three years later, in 1998 there were more than 100 million. There are more than 200 million pages containing billions of written information, photos and music files. Today, there are more than three billion cell phones used in the whole world. All these facts show that it is not only our demand that drives this flux of information, but also the developing of technology at a very high rate. This uncontrollable flux is called information overload. Typical examples are instant messages or even casual conversations taking place in the wrong environment, such as during working hours. Unwanted publicity can also become a nuisance. The second factor is related to the significance and accuracy of information. A huge difference exists between data taken from a reliable source with a better probability of being correct and data taken from an unqualified one. Therefore information can be categorized into information poor and rich based on quality. The more technology has advanced, the faster information is spread, minimizing the possibility of being checked first and the more abundant information sharing from diverse people, thus sources, has become. Poor information involves inaccurate and out-of-date records or poorly organized ones. For instance, scientific facts change, since new evidence may be discovered day to day.
What about the damages caused? Information Pollution attacks the individual, the society and the economy of a place. Inaccuracy of information fabricates misunderstandings, mistakes and conflicts. A specific example would be getting the wrong ingredients for preparing a home-cooked meal. Nevertheless, I believe that the most serious damage is caused by an overload of information. Taking the personal aspect into consideration, an excessive amount of input would cause anxiety, a slower work rate and lots of stress. It is the same as having to study for an exam. Because the amount of information needed to be assimilated is much bigger than usual, the student feels trapped and unable to find a way of achieving success. Moreover, managers are victims of "Information Fatigue Syndrome". They suffer ill health as a direct result of information overload. They also admit their business and social relationships suffer. Some have reported tension with colleagues and diminished job satisfaction. Others think that important decisions are delayed and their abilities to make decisions are affected as a result of having too much information. Socially, experiencing everyday same doses of alarming information, like robberies, murders, destruction of the environment, we are getting used to these issues and do not consider them so problematic. We are losing our sensitivity for what is happening around us, therefore losing our moral values and the desire to make a change, because we start to feel that those kinds of things are just fixed and rooted. On the other hand, in the world of business time is money. A greater quantity of information to be investigated and understood takes more time in comparison with a smaller one. More importantly, there are three things to be taken into account when starting or developing even further a business. The first is having a clear vision. However, due to information overload, it is difficult to make up your mind and to know what you want to accomplish within a certain period of time. Secondly, tunnel vision is essential. Still, with an excess of data, there is a low chance of being able to put up a strategy and not being consumed by everything. For instance, if your aim is to advertise your business through a social network like Facebook, it is not proper to take marketing classes related to video marketing. Last, but not least, implementation is crucial. This is when the business starts to set off. Implementation means not keeping the information, but putting your ideas and knowledge into practice.
Thus, all these negative effects need to be neglected if not cancelled. Surely nowadays, information is faster to reach, easier to get, less expensive as well. Yet people are becoming more “bewildered”, unconscious, and less sensitive. They tend to focus in details and miss the big picture. Furthermore, there is a general state of anxiety, stress, and the feeling of never having enough time. Sometimes a pessimist is just an optimist with too much information. We are suffering both physically, forcing our bodies to cope with all that work and information, and socially, endangering our relationships. Should we let ourselves to be sucked by this enormous vortex called Information Pollution? Do we in reality have the luxury to pretend that nothing is happening? I guess not. It is time to take action.
What are the possible solutions? What are the ways to be followed to tackle the problem? First of all, it is necessary to concentrate at a personal level. Information overload is a symptom of our desire to not focus on what's important. It is a choice. That is why fighting against it, is quite manageable. Putting some priorities and having cleared what type of information is proper and required for every individual. This way only the right amount of data will be received and the process of taking it in will be less tiring. Secondly, use filtering. Filter for substance, for significance, for reliability and for completeness. However, filtering can also be used as part of Internet control panels for designating which information is more important and relevant with respect to a particular topic. For example, when I was doing a research for marine biomes, I got approximately 530000 results on Google. That research would have turned out to be an endless one, if I were not lucky and found the right material right away. One last advice would be to ignore all kinds of interruptions, which only waste valuable time.
In conclusion, Information Revolution brought not only benefits, but also “pollution”. This matter is turning into a great concern in our lives, obstructing us from our daily activities. Both forms: poor information and information overload are attacking us as individuals, our personal and professional relationships, too. It is the moment to stop and think and to follow patterns of solutions in order to decrease the damages caused. Having information may increase the level of knowledge; it may be useful in numberless situations; yet true wisdom means being capable to use properly and take profit of the information you hold.
Worked by: Joana Lame
1. Einstein: “Information is not knowledge”
2. Seneca: “distringit librorum multitudo”