Feeling Overwhelmed While Online? Here’s How You Avoid Information Wipeout From Surfing the Web
Writing lets your identity become an anchor in a world that is nothing but information
On any given day, you absorb around 74 GB (~16 movies) of information. Only 500 years ago, 74 GB is what the most educated person consumed in a lifetime.
Yet this abundance of information has blended into the digital background of our lives. We seldom notice its presence, distracted by the notifications, emails, and dopamine binges.
In turn, we remain unaware of information overloads’ harmful consequences.
You know that feeling; when your innocent Google search morphs into an exhausting rabbit hole? When you genuinely want to learn something, but keep getting lost? When you compulsively check social media, unsure of what you’re looking for?
You feel cluttered. Disorganized. You are drowning in the information surrounding you.
An information wipeout from surfing the web.
While harrowing, the good news is there is a way to swim back to sanity’s shores.
Information Wipeout From Surfing the Web
You take your surfboard, AKA your electronic device, and dive into the ocean of information.
Catching the perfect wave remains an unparalleled, breathless experience. It swells the heart with dopamine, thickens the bloodstream with adrenaline. It brings upon a new perspective on the natural world. Rather than trudge on land, we let the waves guide us, powered by the moon’s gravitational pull.
Consuming information is akin to surfing.
When we unearth engaging, intriguing information, we see the world in a new light. We forget about our physical limitations, entranced by a digital language.
But like most things in life, surfing requires balance. Without equilibrium, we run the risk of a wipeout. In a split second the waves can catapult us towards the ocean floor.
An information wipeout produces a similar sensation. You become disoriented, unable to tell right from left. Forty tabs are open. The computer’s fan is blasting. You become agitated. What am I doing here? What am I looking for again?
Our natural instinct tells us to swim to the surface. But we’re no match for the wave, no match for the influx of information.
The wave somersaults us underwater as if we’re plankton caught in the current. The steady stream of information overtakes our selective attention.
The key isn’t to resist: it’s to abandon the fight altogether.
We must allow chaos to pass around us, to sink to the bottom of the ocean and hide from the turbulent waters. It is after this moment of stillness that can we swim up to the surface for a gasp of air.
My Information Wipeout
In the Summer of 2020, information wipeout hit its pinnacle. I was in the midst of the dreaded job search, floating in uncertainty after COVID wiped me out from the music industry.
One balmy August morning, I woke up in a pleasant mood, feeling optimistic about the job search (hah). Eager to start the day, I opened my MacBook Air and pulled up the usual. LinkedIn, Gmail, Google, Canva, Indeed.
Within two hours, I felt horrible. I hadn’t applied to a single job and was having an existential crisis.
Pulling up one job post would lead to chaos. The company needed someone skilled at MailChimp? YouTube was open, playing “MailChimp for Beginners.” They wanted a person who paid attention to detail? I dove into Google images looking for a transparent PNG of the company logo to slap onto my resume. Who was their hiring manager? I would find their LinkedIn and stalk their latest accomplishments.
It was delusional.
It wasn’t long until the deluge of information manifested itself physically. My eyes were dull, body tense, mind racing. I spent the rest of the day subdued, disappointed I hadn’t advanced.
I’ve had dozens of days like this. Even though I’d spend hours on the internet, I would have no recollection of what I exactly did or saw. It was as if I didn’t make memories while logged in. They disappeared into an abyss.
We Weren’t Built For This
Our brains are 40,000 years old.
Our smartphones have existed for 0.04% of this time — 14 years, to be exact.
This recent bombardment of information alters the malleable, tender human brain.
Research suggests the flood of information could create new neural connections, altering the development path of the brain. This directly affects our attention, as it is continuously compromised and interrupted.
And with a lack of focus, we’re unable to reflect or do deep thinking.
Our devices encase us in a world designed to drown out our internal voices.
Writing Is How You Swim Back to Sanity’s Shore
In November 2020, I confronted information wipeout.
It’s unclear how I came to the resolution. All I knew was I felt alienated from myself, out of touch with my inner reality. I used to spend hours writing in spiral notebooks as a kid; now with each flash of boredom, I would hop on a device and mentally check out.
Surely, I still had things to say. So, I decided to begin journaling again.
I downloaded Valentin Perez’s 3-minute journaling prompts and started to answer them every morning and evening. The questions were whacky, creative even; what did I want to experiment with today? What did I want my subconscious to ponder while I was asleep?
At first, it felt silly to continuously answer the same prompts. There were days I’d fall asleep during journaling because I’d lay down in bed with my laptop (smart, I know). There is a resistance towards self-reflection because it’s much easier to throw ourselves into the water. We’d rather float and let the currents of information take over.
Yet I pushed through. I kept writing. And then, something peculiar happened.
After 50 days, I noticed I had an entire backlog of thoughts, hopes, dreams, and stories in my digital database. Ideas came out of me I didn’t even know existed.
Journaling allowed me to drain the overflow of information. I became clear-headed. The world seemed uncomplicated. And my identity became an anchor in a world that is nothing but information.
This is how one combats information wipeout. You hide from the chaos and find refuge in a quiet place where the mind can finally listen to itself.
Constant self-reflection has several benefits. After only a few weeks of journaling, I noticed:
- A surge of creativity. Exploring the inner workings of my mind lead to surprising new conclusions.
- Compassion for yourself. You feel kinder, more understanding. You grasp the fact you are only human, filled with dreams, hopes, and qualms like anyone else.
- Wonderful objectivity. Writing about your experiences lets them become objective. They migrate from the intangible workings of your mind onto a piece of paper. In turn, your problems feel a lot less serious.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed with the information clutter surrounding you, you can find relief in knowing your identity grounds you. This is who you are. How you feel. What you think. It is how you simplify the world around you.
So the next time the waves of information wipe you out, recognize self-reflection is how you bob your head to the surface. You take a deep breath and begin anew.
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