Trying to take a stand against information overload

Have you wondered why I began my regular ‘what I’ve been reading this week’ slot on my blog? Have you wondered why I rarely retweet and share other people’s stuff on Twitter these days?

It’s because the bottomless content feeds we’ve allowed to take up so much room in our lives are awash with stuff none of us really cares about, but we’re forced to scroll past it in order to see the few things we do care about.

It’s because using Twitter sometimes feels a bit like having your eyelids pinned open while all the causes, concerns and misfortunes of the entire world are poured in an unceasing torrent directly into your brain.

It’s because concentration is a precious, finite thing and we’re all frittering it away on trivia.

It’s because the first thing I do when I follow someone new on Twitter (which is rarely) is to click ‘turn off retweets’, because heavy Twitter users retweet so much that I find the sheer quantity of it overwhelming.

It’s because I don’t want to inflict this on other people who may struggle, as I struggle, with this near-unbearable deluge. You may not care about the things I care about, but if you do want to read the links I’d otherwise post on Twitter, all you have to do is sign up to my newsletter, visit my blog, or subscribe to my RSS feed. That way I don’t clutter up your Twitter feed, and you get to consider my links in a calm space optimised for reading (this website) instead of the frenetic, anxiety-inducing, ad-ridden hellscape that we all seem to be trapped in.

‘Zig when others zag,’ they say. Right now, everyone seems to be losing their minds over chasing ‘social media success’, whatever that means, or just paddling furiously to stay afloat above the never-ending tide of information overload. Trying to be successful on social media looks like a certain recipe for burnout and nervous breakdown from where I’m standing, so instead I’m focusing efforts on this blog and my newsletter – places that I control and that respect my readers’ attention.

I still tweet links directly related to me, or content I’ve published, because if you follow me on Twitter you presumably want to read my stuff. But I don’t feel comfortable presuming you also want every little thing I find interesting thrust to the forefront of your attention. I think social media would be a better place if more people thought for a moment before tweeting or retweeting.

An overloaded planet leads to an overloaded mind. It leads to late nights and light sleep. It leads to worrying about unanswered emails at three in the morning. In extreme cases, it leads to panic attacks in the cereal aisle.

—Matt Haig, Notes on a Nervous Planet

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