We live in a globalized world full of data and information. Consequently, the perception we have of ourselves has changed substantially. In part, this is due to the exponential flow of information. It not only makes us aware of what’s happening in the world but also establishes new ways of being and living.
In the information society in which we live, digitization has been one of the keys to its development. It’s generated the appearance of multiple new means of communication and ways of producing, storing, and disseminating information. This has modified our interpersonal relationships and systems of production, education, and entertainment.
Indeed, in an increasingly hyperconnected world, it’s hardly surprising that information overload or infoxication has a considerable impact on our mental health. Next, we’ll look at the concept of infoxication and consider its relationship with anxiety.
The need to be informed at all times produces anxiety that drives us to want to deal with all the content that’s offered to us that seems to be so vital. This compulsive consumption makes us frustrated when we realize that we can’t process and assimilate everything we want to.
Infoxication translates as an emotion of anguish coupled with the perception that there’s so much information that we can’t easily assimilate, evaluate, organize, direct, and select. This overload produces stress and frustration, due to our inability to access, understand, or make use of the necessary information.
In other words, we experience infoxication when the information we receive is far greater than we’re capable of processing. In the globalized and hyperconnected world in which we live, this phenomenon is common.
Infoxication has several symptoms in addition to anxiety and frustration :
- Attention and concentration deficit.
- Memory problems.
- Indecision and distraction.
- Acceleration, impatience, and impulsiveness.
- Poor time management.
- Impaired analytical ability.
The most common causes of infoxication, according to Preciado (2020), are the following:
- Inexperience or insecurity. When we have to talk or learn about an unknown subject, the first thing we do is look for information from sources that are within our reach. However, we don’t delve into them for the right amount of time.
- Stress. Due to the multiple tasks that we carry out in a day and the stress that these cause, the time we dedicate to examining the information we assimilate is extremely short. Therefore, we’re unable to carry out a rigorous and in-depth analysis of the information.
- Poor quality sources. When searching for information, we tend to use unreliable sources that cause us confusion with their content. Furthermore, the information is often incomplete. This leads us to search for other resources, thus causing an information overload.
- Lack of criteria in information searches. Our lack of critical and selective reading of information causes our cognitive system to become overloaded with an excess of processed information. It causes us anxiety due to the impossibility of managing it properly.
- Excess caution. This leads us to store information in excess for fear of not finding it again. In fact, the fear of missing out on what’s happening or the assimilated information leads us to compulsively process the content which ends up overloading our cognitive system.
- The need to know everything. Our desire and anxiety to know everything drives us to overload ourselves with information in order to possess more knowledge.
The relationship between infoxication and anxiety
Anxiety is understood as the apprehension about the threat to a certain value that an individual considers essential for their existence (May, 2000). It’s an existential reaction that warns us that the values with which we identify are being threatened. In fact, anxiety is our anticipatory response to a feared event or situation that hasn’t yet occurred.
Infoxication and anxiety maintain a mutual relationship, in which each one is capable of promoting the appearance of the other. For example, if intellectual life and possessing a lot of knowledge is a core value for us, we may end up overloading ourselves with information in order to know more than we already do.
On the other hand, if we perceive that we’re not obtaining the knowledge we want due to over-processing information, we become anxious. That’s because the value we attach to knowing everything is being threatened. This anxiety leads us to become more overloaded with information, turning the infoxication-anxiety cycle into a vicious circle in which both feed off each other.
The more we experience infoxication, the less able we’ll be to organize and assimilate information. The more anxiety we feel concerning being updated, knowing more about a specific field of knowledge, or about what’s happening in the world, the more information we’ll consume. As a matter of fact, infoxication and anxiety are two sides of the same coin in certain situations.
How to reduce infoxication and anxiety
If you’re suffering from infoxication, here are some tips to help you improve your mental health.
- Organize your schedules for your consumption of information. Organizing a schedule will prevent you from constantly ingesting information from digital platforms. In fact, you should schedule a particular time of day to obtain information, watch the news, or surf social media.
- Disable notifications. Stop yourself from receiving notifications about news all the time so that you’re not tempted to look at them. If you receive information every five minutes, at the end of the day your brain becomes exhausted from so much processing and organizing of data.
- Don’t check your cell phone before you go to sleep. The light of your cell phone can inhibit the release of melatonin, a hormone associated with sleep induction. Sleeping and resting well are necessary for a healthy life and for information to be consolidated in your neural networks.
Infoxication and anxiety are two remarkable characteristics of today’s societies, in which information consumption has become as intense as other types of consumption. How much information do you read in a day? Have you ever felt anxious trying to assimilate a volume of information that you can’t process?
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