Crossing Borders: Information Overload

Information Overload

The technological advancements that humankind has achieved in the past few decades have been staggering in their potential.  The ability to transfer information instantaneously across the globe is one of the greatest achievements of mankind.  There is no doubt that this revolution has significantly accelerated the rate at which individuals can access information.  However, with such a rapid change in the pace of technology, it is worth considering that this transformation might have some unintended negative consequences.  The digital painting Information Overload seeks to present straightforward, satirical look at the effects that the information age has on a portion of humankind.

The painting features a caricature of a working-class middle-aged man staged against a sickly, green backdrop.  The man stares in silent agony at his current predicament while a stream of saliva dribbles from the corner of his mouth.  His cranium is humorously inflated to twice the size of a normal human’s while countless communication devices appear to be seemingly embedded in his head.  The silhouette of numerous electronic and media company logos bulge precariously beneath his skin.  His eyes bear increased signs of fatigue and distraction while his unshaven face suggest that his physical care has diminished due to his circumstances.  The blood vessels in his eyes are even reshaped to match the trace paths of a circuit board.  As the viewer follows the gaze of his eyes upward, they are greeted with the central focus of the piece: a single glowing power button.  His pained expression and gaze seemingly ask the viewer to reach out and press the button, hopefully allowing him some relief from the painful predicament that he has found himself in.

With new ways of exchanging information emerging every day and the rapid increase in the rate of data transmission, it is becoming apparent that humankind’s ability to adapt healthily to this advancement is marginal.  Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, and many more have rapidly shaped how the world interacts with and exchanges information, sometimes resulting in negative consequences.  A recent experiment was conducted by the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology where the campus blocked internet access to social media sites for an entire week.  The resulting responses of students were mixed, ranging from those whose stress level seemed diminished to those who showed the same type of withdrawal symptoms a quitting smoker might experience (Reuters).  Another study done by the Cranfield School of Management among teenagers revealed that a third of the 11-18 year olds they surveyed admitted that text messaging shortcuts damaged the quality of their writing and spelling.  In addition, it was revealed that a high percentage of teens admitted to directly inserting information from the internet into schoolwork without any changes.  From those that admitted, a third deemed it as an acceptable practice despite recognizing that such behavior is considered plagiarism (Associated Press).

In addition to demonstrating physical and psychological reactions to the inclusion of technology in societies, there appears to be a growing transition in social behavior.  The generation of individuals born within the past thirty years have recently been labeled the “Me Generation,” mostly due to the increased use of social media and a growing attitude of narcissism.  According to North Western University psychology instructor Jerry Green, today’s generation is in a constant state of multi-tasking.  Students are texting while they eat, sit in class, or drive down the road.  According to Green, “Human Nature is the same as it has always been.  We are all born very selfish but eventually learn to put our needs on hold.  It is taking this generation longer to grow up than ever before” (Estrada).  With the increasing trend of dependence on technology and self-centered mentality, one can only wonder what the next social transition of humanity will entail.

There is no doubt that the advances in technology across the world over the past few decades have had significant positive results.  Medical and scientific breakthroughs allow countless individuals to increase their standard of living far above that which they have been able to previously achieve. However, with the exponential increase of information availability, it is questionable if the human mind will be able to healthily adapt.  Numerous situations in addition those previously discussed show increased evidence that some humans are unable to effectively integrate these advances as an appendage to their life rather than the focus of it.  It is arguable that mankind may have to slow down a bit in order to adapt to this increase in technology or to find an acceptable distribution channel without the negative side effects.  Perhaps it would be better for all of mankind to emulate the man portrayed in Information Overload, and find the ‘power button’ for their own technological distractions in life.

Works Cited

Associated Press. "Technology Addiction Disrupts Teenage Learning | Database and Network Journal | Find Articles at BNET." Find Articles at BNET | News Articles, Magazine Back Issues & Reference Articles on All Topics. BNET, 2009. Web. 09 May 2011.

Estrada, Amy. "Students Say Their Social Media Addiction Earns“Generation Me” Label." Http://collegian.tccd.edu/. The Collegian Online, 08 Feb. 2011. Web. 9 May 2011.

Reuters. "Social Media Ban Experiment Reveals Facebook, Twitter Users Display Signs of Addiction - FoxNews.com." FoxNews.com - Breaking News | Latest News | Current News. Fox News, 24 Sept. 2010. Web. 09 May 2011.

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