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Information eye

Information Overload

 

To pay attention, this is our endless and proper work.

-Mary Oliver-

 

It seems as though the world is getting more and more complex.  And that things are changing faster and faster.  Maybe it’s just that I have been on this planet for 60 years and that the changes I’ve seen have been accumulating and tinting my perception of the world around me.  But I suspect that it’s not only a question of perspective.  Technology instantly provides us with so much information!   It is empowering, there’s no denying that.  But it feels like we are losing something along the way.  Simplicity?  Peace of mind, maybe?  Balance?  Yes, definitely balance. 

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We Are More than Our Brains

Some say that the way information is presented on the net seems to be affecting our attention spans and our capacity for deep thinking.  From my standpoint, this seems to be the case.  Furthermore, because there is so much information to process, we become skilled at skimming through longer texts.  When we don’t avoid them completely, that is!  It’s understandable.  The quantity of information available to us is quite overwhelming.  Are we equipped to act on all the info that we now have?  I think not and this creates a disconnect.  Skill comes from not just knowing intellectually, but from integrating what we learn.

Humans are multi-dimensional.  We process information in an intellectual way, but we often need to assimilate what we learn through other dimensions of our being.  Someone may explain to us the basic elements of downhill skiing, but until we’ve physically slid downhill on a pair of skis, we are unable to ski.  We may know that lashing out at another is not an appropriate response when we’re feeling anger, but if we haven’t  resolved our emotional triggers, it’s likely to happen.  I also believe that we have a spiritual side that needs to be recognized.  We can develop our spirituality with practices such as prayer, meditation, and deep inspiration for beauty of all kinds.  Operating from our multidimensional selves, we are in harmony.  We are coming from a place of strength by having developed our many layers.

Know better, do better?

This information overload is affecting all of us.  If we don’t have the time or the resources needed to integrate what we know, we feel the pressure of not being able to do our jobs or achieve our personal goals in a competent way.  The information is out there, after all… We feel like we need to be doing better, because we know better. 

 In my last years of teaching, I was much more aware of my students’ individual difficulties than at the beginning of my career.  The information about ADD, ADHD and Autism became available to education workers as the number of students diagnosed exploded.  While there’s no denying that the data is priceless in helping these kids, I suspect that the situation created a lot of the burnout we see in education these days.  This new knowledge led to a much more individualized way of teaching, where meetings with parents, principals and staff multiplied exponentially.  We were asked to focus on individuals, with their different learning styles and follow set intervention plans for many of them.  While this way of doing things is obviously beneficial for students with learning or behavioral difficulties, it is an extra load to carry.  Teachers are crying out for added resources which budgets won’t allow.

oprah and b obama

From what I gather, people of many different professions are in the same boat as teachers are.  As Oprah would say “When you know better, you do better.”  It’s true.  I believe that most human beings aspire to this adage.  But there are limits as to how quickly we can adapt, given our natures and the available resources.   No wonder so many of us are stressed out as we try to do our best with what we know, each in our individual arenas.  And I suspect that many just stop trying.  The task of being accountable in our complex world makes some of us just give up.  And that’s a shame.

Being aware of the quantity and quality of information available and discerning our capacity to effectively act on it is a balancing act.  Whether the useful information acquired be about the way we relate to others, perform our jobs, go green or other goals we may set, we need to be reminded that we can’t do it all.  Depending on the wiggle room we have in our lives, we can try to be flexible and apply what we learn.  We can incorporate change into our lives but most of us need to do it at a sustainable pace, learning to set our boundaries along the way. 

The Way Information is Circulated is Problematic

In the past few years, I’ve noticed that people’s views seem to be heading in opposite directions.  Our world is getting more and more polarized.  Where politics and policy are concerned, it feels like there has been a movement from the center to the right or to the left.  I fear that we are becoming entrenched in our views and that the gap between us will lead to major confrontations.  This situation seems especially prevalent in the United States, but I believe that the tendency is shared by many populations the world over.

I wondered at how the recent acceleration of polarization transpired.  Then I heard Barack Obama allude to the situation.  He explained that because social media caters to the individual in the way that information is circulated, we become more entrenched in our personal ways of seeing things.  If I read and share articles about things that I find compelling, the media will send more of those articles my way.  It’s satisfying but it limits my worldview, creating mental blinders.  Which brings us back to “When you know better, you do better.”  We need to become aware of the filters set upon our news feeds.  To strike a balance, we can seek out other points of view.  If you’d like to assess your own objectivity and open-mindedness, openmindplatform.org is a great interactive website in which to do so.  And this news website gives us the latest information in politics, seen from the left, right and center.  It is much more helpful to get an objective grasp of what’s going on in our society, rather than the satisfaction of having our views constantly echoed back to us.  Peace and harmony can only come about if we understand and listen to one another. ♥

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