Saturday, May 21, 2022

Are you ‘infoxicated’?

“The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” 

— Henry David Thoreau

It is common knowledge that older adults who spend time on the Internet, reading and watching TV do have a significantly better cognitive function than those who don’t.

Retirement can either slow you down or you can make the choice of staying current with the world. The absolute beauty of today’s world of mass media and communication is that packing in all the information available in every industry, in the comfort of your home is possible. You can spend hours surfing the internet, researching and empowering yourself with a plethora of subject matter available to you,  gearing you for your next social gathering of conversations and gupshup.

We humans, with the advancement of science, technology and medicine have embarked on a frantic race of development, it is a race like expedition — “source, invent new and ditch or replace the old.”

The level of learning, absorbing and growing from the time a child is conceived to resting in peace, is almost like a never ending novel, you keep turning the page and knowledge pops up. Generation to generation keeps advancing, evolving and getting complex. This complexity can sometimes be too much for seniors to handle. 

For example something as simple as a smart phone — it has made life much easier, the connectivity, the shopping, the information, the convenience but with each model update, it can seem a bit complicated and overwhelming. 


What is information overload? 

Imagine being bombarded with information and data all at once. It can definitely be overwhelming to process. This excess of information is called information overload. 

Information overload can hinder our ability to process information effectively and can lead to poor decision making in both a professional and personal setting work, which is sometimes referred to as analysis paralysis.


The fine line between the right amount of information and overload 

‘You can’t become all you were created to be by staying comfortable, don’t run from things that are hard.’ This is something instilled in us from a young age, we hear and are constantly reminded about it throughout life. The amounts pledged by companies and cobbling together of countries are widespread and complex. Information, ideas, inventions are announced daily and though we wish it was as easy as building an IKEA bookshelf, it is overwhelming.

Nowadays, while creating a website or app,  a crucial part of a user experience designer’s job is to ensure that just the right amount of information appears on a webpage or app screen. Enough information that is relevant but not so much that it causes information overload. This is very important because people may experience stress due to information overload. This stress is often described as “information anxiety”. 

Day to day management of information is no longer restricted to a wealthy elite class of professionals but is a problem which nearly everyone faces. Social media, e-mail, the internet, mobile apps, all spill data into our lives daily.


On one spectrum, companies and industries are stepping foot into industries that were unheard of before and raking in the business, examples of a few are — 

Pfizer, the pharma company, one of the manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccine has brought in nearly $36 million in revenue, which makes the vaccine one of the top-selling drugs of all time.

SpaceX, a company by Elon Musk in the private space industry, has sent out two thousand satellites into the low-earth orbit to build out its Starlink broadband Internet system. This is after Blue Origin and NASA launched the first-ever mission of amateur astronauts in space.  

Amazon is expanding into areas like advertising, media rights, and logistics.


On the other hand, humans are stepping back from greed and putting health and mental stability first  — 

Simone Biles, the woman’s gymnast, pulled out of the Tokyo Olympics, as she posted on Instagram that her ‘mind and body are simply not in sync.’ 

As did Naomi Osaka, she withdrew from the French Open Tennis for mental health reasons and to care for herself.


So here’s my point, as older adults, it is nice to know of all the advancements in science, technology, sport and entertainment, but where does one draw the line? Absorbing information on a daily basis should be exactly like knowing the difference between sympathy and empathy on a subject.  

Scan through the headlines and read details of only articles that appeal to you, ones that may affect your life personally or are needed for yourself. 

It is important to be current with the world, but also have the ability to disconnect. 


How does one verify fake news? How does one keep up with the daily forwards on Whatsapp and via email?

We have all fallen prey to the jaws of a misleading Whatsapp forward or chain email. These nasty happenings of spreading fake news takes away from the authenticity and factualness of information that is true and worth knowing and reading about. Verification of news is a must in this day and age. With the sheer amount of fake news circulating you are sure to be overloaded with just that.  


A few tips to spot the difference between fake news and facts are: 

– Before you read an article, go to a trusted source on the Internet, check if the article is legitimate and then dive into the article. Definitely do not forward the article before you have verified the source and the authenticity.
– A fraction of your readings should be recommended or inspiring.

– Be aware of cyber attacks, improve your resilience to cyber attacks and understand the role you need to play in cyber defence. You will save yourself many a heartache.

– Keep things clear and simple. The less information you have – the easier it is to understand. Filter information ruthlessly.

– Keep it relevant. Information that is necessary and valuable should be absorbed versus every single piece of information available. Ignore the rest. 

– Learn to skim. Most information really only contains a key point or two, make note of those points, understand the gist of the information presented to you and move on.


Examples of what news seniors should focus on —

– Anything that brings back fond memories — music, dance, theatre, shows, movies.

– Incentives for seniors by government and insurance companies.

– Health tips.

– Family and close friends news on Whatsapp chats or social media sites.

– World politics if it interests you.

– Spiritual reading or podcasts.


Balance is the key, if you maintain that, you will not be overloaded —just empowered.


Vinita Alvares Fernandes
Vinita Alvares Fernandes is an Economics graduate, a writer and a Trinity College certified public speaker and communicator

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