Clay Shirky gave a thought-provoking presentation “It’s Not Information Overload. It’s Filter Failure.” He argues that information overload is not new. Ever since Gutenberg most people have had access to more information than they could handle. But until recently there were effective mechanisms for filtering this information: social norms, slow communication, etc. The solution is to create new filters. Here are a couple quotes from near the end of his presentation.
We’ve had information overload in some form or another since the 1500’s. What’s changing now is the filters used for most of that 500 year period are breaking. And designing new filters doesn’t mean simply updating the old filters. They’re broken for structural reasons, not surface reasons.
When you feel yourself getting too much information, I think the discipline is not to say to yourself “What’s happened to the information?” but rather “What was I relying on before that stopped functioning?”