A study in green: Harnessing nature's palette for well-being

Information overload: Adopting the modern world to our prehistoric minds

Jonas Hultenius, Software Architecht at Sogeti and one of our global experts in SogetiLabs, discuss information overload and our prehistoric minds in this blog post. Read it to find out more on this exciting topic.

The modern digital age has ushered in a golden era of information accessibility, and we have grown used to it. Knowledge that was once a scarce commodity, and hard-won at that, is now readily available at our fingertips. News, entertainment and social connections, are all just a tap or a click away.

Yet, amidst this abundance lurks a hidden threat, information overload. This deluge of stimuli overwhelms our brains, designed for a simpler environment, it leads to a cascade of negative consequences for our well-being and productivity.

Our ancient ancestors, for all their ingenuity, navigated a world with far less information. Their days were spent hunting, gathering, and coping with the immediate threats and opportunities of their direct environment. Their brains, honed by evolution, excelled at processing this limited information stream and were built for prioritizing survival and reproduction. Nothing much has happened since then, and their brains are, for the most part, our brains. Today, however, we face a vastly different reality.

The modern world bombards us with a constant barrage of information. News notifications vie for our attention alongside social media updates, email alerts and the endless scroll of online content. This information overload creates a state of cognitive dissonance for our simple prehistoric brains. We’re simply not wired to handle such a relentless influx of stimuli.

The consequences of this information overload are multifaceted and as a result, we see an increasing number of problems directly linked to it.

Our brains are wired to focus on immediate threats and rewards. Every bush could hide a lion or possibly a midday stack for us in the form of some tasty fruit. A simple task for, all in all, a simple brain. In the constant competition for our attention, information overload fosters a “scanning” mentality, forcing us to hop from one piece of information to the next without ever fully absorbing anything. This fractured focus makes it difficult to concentrate on complex tasks or delve deeply into any single subject and severely decreases our attention span. You’ll probably miss the lion behind the hedge, scrolling on your phone, being bombarded with ads and health scares about fruit consumption.

The oceans of information we bathe in every day also leads to decision fatigue. Every email, news update or social media post presents a mini decision. To read or not to read, to respond or to ignore. Over the course of a day, these constant micro-decisions deplete our cognitive resources, leading to decision fatigue. This leaves us feeling drained and less equipped to make important decisions when the need arises. Choosing one thing is hard but having to choose all the time is exhausting.

The constant feeling of being “behind” or missing out on something fuels anxiety and has been on the rise for the last couple of years. The fear of missing out, FOMO, thrives in this environment, constantly reminding us of the information we haven’t consumed. This persistent anxiety takes a toll on our mental well-being and overall sense of calm. Anxiety and Stress is the new normal and unlike the lions, that I keep yammering on about, it is ever present.

Studies have also shown that modern life has started to impair our creativity, something that has set us apart from the rest of nature and built the foundations of our modern civilization.

Creativity thrives in a state of focused relaxation. Information overload creates the opposite, a state of constant stimulation that makes it difficult for the mind to wander and make the unexpected connections that sparking innovative ideas. This constant barrage of information leaves us feeling overwhelmed rather than inspired and with all information readily available, you often get the sense that everything has already been invented.

Lastly, we have the scourge of our time: the erosion of trust. The sheer volume of available information makes it difficult to discern truth from falsehood. Fake news and misinformation spread like wildfire in this environment, eroding our trust in traditional information sources and fostering a sense of cynicism. We are literarily drowned in information so to survive we often take things at face value, to process it all would be suicidal.

So how do we navigate this information minefield and reclaim our mental well-being? Is there anything we can do? Of course there is! Start with a nice digital detox. Just as our bodies need physical rest, our brains need breaks from the constant stimulation of the digital world. Schedule regular digital detox breaks, disconnecting from devices and allowing your brain to process information and recharge. Next, we need to embrace single-tasking. Multitasking might seem like a way to be productive, but it actually hinders our ability to focus. We need to retrain our brains to focus on one task at a time, eliminating distractions and giving your full attention to the matter at hand. The digital hygge approach!

Mindfulness practices like meditation and deep breathing also help train our brain to focus on the present moment. And it is known to help in reducing anxiety, stress and improving concentration. Mindfulness apps and guided meditations can be a quick and helpful starting point.

We also need to become conscious consumers of information. Not all information is created equal after all. By curating our online environment with simple steps like following credible news sources, unfollowing negativity on social media, and actively seeking out content that is meaningful and inspiring, we create a safe space for ourselves to relax.

We all need a digital zen garden.

Technology is a powerful tool, and like any tool, it needs to be used mindfully. By taking these simple steps, we can reclaim control of our attention and foster a healthier relationship with information in the digital age.

Remember, information overload isn’t an inevitable consequence of the modern world.

By understanding the challenges it poses and adopting strategies to manage it, we can harness the power of information for good, fostering creativity, improving productivity, and ultimately living more fulfilling lives in a vast yet calm sea of information.

  • Jonas Hultenius
    Jonas Hultenius
    Software Architect & SogetiLabs Fellow, Sogeti Sweden
    070-518 66 25

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