Welcome to 2017, a time where Bachelor’s Degrees are mandatory, and almost anything can be Googled. Yes, we live in an era where humans have higher levels of education and greater access to information than ever before. But, despite the fact that our office walls are lined with degrees and our minds filled to the brim with information, we may not be the wisest generation that ever lived.
How can this be? It simply comes down to the fact that absorbing mass amounts of information doesn’t necessarily equate to knowledge, just as knowledge does not always equate to wisdom.
The average human is exposed to more information in a single day than our ancestors experienced in a lifetime. Therefore, it is not necessarily that our generation is unwise, but that we are distracted; unable to filter through mass information to find what is truly important.
Since it is impossible to stop exposing ourselves to this overload of information, we must become better at absorbing what we need and discarding the rest if we wish to become a wiser generation.
Canadian Professor and Philosopher Marshall McLuhan once said,
One of the effects of living with electric information is that we live habitually in a state of information overload. There’s always more than you can cope with.
While McLuhan made this intuitive statement years before the advent of the internet, the message rings true today. There is just too much information to deal with on a daily basis.
Consider for a moment how most of us begin each day; we read the newspaper, watch the news, or scroll through social media. Often before we’ve even had our first cup of coffee, we’ve been exposed to an abundance of information. Combine this with the fact that most of our jobs require us to absorb and compute additional loads of information and it’s easy to see how our brains can become overwhelmed.
Before the vast amounts of information were provided by the internet, acquiring information and knowledge required time and effort. If you didn’t know the answer to a question, you had to find someone who knew or reference a book. This allotted us the necessary time needed to focus on and comprehend what we were learning.
Conversely, our “Google-it” mentality requires mere seconds to find fast information that quickly becomes meaningless. It may very well be the sheer ease of acquiring information that has diluted our knowledge. Rather than substance, we strive for expedience, and as a result, sacrifice true wisdom.
Famous actor and martial artist Bruce Lee once said, “Absorb what is useful, discard what is not, add what is uniquely your own.” Although he was not speaking about information overload, his quote suits the topic perfectly. The best offense may be a solid defense when it comes to information overload. If we want to ensure we truly absorb material that matters, we must discard what is not useful to us. Although our brains have more complex capabilities than we currently understand, it is our attention that often limits what we retain.
While the amount of information available to us is unlikely to decrease, the amount we consciously consume can. When we skip over information that does not serve us and focus on the content that does, we can acquire true knowledge rather than fast facts. Give it a whirl to see how much knowledge you can gain simply by choosing not to know a little bit about everything.
Kali Muir is an ambitious freelance writer with a BA in Communications. She was born in Canada but has since lived in Norway, Denmark, and England. Her work experience is as diverse as her past addresses, including roles in technical communication, corporate communication, marketing, and article writing. She has experience working in varied business sectors: Oil & Gas, Engineering & Technology, Clothing & Equipment Retail, and Creative Writing. Follow Kali’s professional and personal journey at www.kalimuir.com, or connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter.