Digital fatigue . . . what took it so long?


Decades on, we are still reeling from the tsunami of information released (and continually being released) upon us by the internet; sociologists are now telling us we’re not benefiting as much as we thought from this volume of information.

It’s clear we let most of this oh-so-valuable info speed right past us. There’s no way we can take in, process and sort, store, and then retrieve even half of this massive data and info-flow. One web expert has calculated that in the USA alone 17 webpages are put up every second. Every five seconds, the US gives us 85 new webpages to study.

Who can process such volume – without even questioning how much of all this blather is actual information or is just verbal pollution? Does every gas station or laundromat really need a website?

All this has brought us continual argument: we like this excess, or we don’t; we can use this “information” or it’s irrelevant. Websites are tools – or ego-boosters? Have we news, or all entertainment?

The ubiquity of ad-blockers tells us our media audiences are unhappy and frustrated with their digital experience.

Ad-blocking is one indicator; consider how many people today are working most of their days on-screen. Think about the effect of working all day, every day, week after week, with one’s office computer or device. To insist that people only read from their screens . . . means they will fight their way home in traffic merely to switch on their home computer to check out more sites?

Isn’t another computer the last thing we want to look at, once we leave the office with its rows of computer workstations? This is digital fatigue.

We spend all day dealing with pop-up screens, autoplay videos, ads that appear and disappear on their own schedule, and even the hard-to-close mini-routines which appear on our screens because those screens have decided just what our likes and dislikes happen to be. Is this really the treatment we want from internet providers or websites?

It’s threatening, Big Data’s quiet recording of our internet use and interests, for commercial purposes. We are so, so fatigued by all these attempts just to sell us stuff!

It’s becoming clear that as our use of non-traditional sources for our news grows our actual understanding of the news has declined. Polling has shown, largely in the USA, that public awareness of election or legislative issues is low, much lower than we’d expect, given that everyone is carrying an “information device”. In the old days we did too, and called it our brain.

Is it fair to conclude that although today we have more information at our fingertips, we actually know less and less about the things that matter? How is that good?