Coping with Digital Overload: Finding Order amid the Chaos
Digital media has transformed the way we consume information, with a seemingly infinite amount of content vying for our attention. From emails to social media feeds, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the amount of data we receive each day, leading to a phenomenon known as digital overload. In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways people are finding order amid the chaos of digital media.
The Limitations of Filters and Settings
The first generation of internet services attempted to assist users with filters and settings, but this approach proved ineffective for many. Most people simply ignore the settings and don’t bother setting up filters. As a result, many systems have moved towards helping users automatically. For example, Gmail has a priority inbox, while social networks utilize recommendation engines and algorithmic feeds. These features attempt to predict what users are most likely to engage with, but they are not always accurate.
Snap and TikTok’s Unique Approaches
Snap and TikTok’s approaches are different. Snap’s model is based on content disappearing after 24 hours, reducing the pressure to produce high-quality content and the need to consume everything. TikTok takes this a step further with an infinite feed, removing the pressure to reach the end but creating an addiction-like experience.
Moving and Structuring Messages
Slack, Google Docs, Figma, and Frame.io are solutions that seek to move messages away from inboxes and into channels or structured documents. However, this creates a new problem: users may now have multiple channels or documents filled with unread messages. Zawinski’s Law suggests that all software grows until it can do messaging. Now, every document is attempting to absorb email, transforming threads into a chat feature with version control.
Screenshots and Physical Preservation
Screenshots are popular because they are a way to preserve digital content in physical form. With a single screenshot, users can sever a link with a piece of digital content and keep it for themselves without the need for special tools or software.
Email newsletters have grown in popularity because they feel like a tangible, physical object that users can hold onto and revisit. This perception of newsletters as something tangible has led many people to be more willing to pay for email newsletters rather than reading blog posts on a website, where they are easily lost in the digital noise.
Finding Order Amid Chaos
Consumers are struggling to manage the sheer volume of data that digital media generates. Some have attempted to relocate the problem with extreme measures such as Tokyo’s Morioka Shoten bookshop, which only sells one book. Others are turning to handcrafted goods and limited edition items.
Digital Value: Scarcity and Individuality
With digital products, creating scarcity through individualization is difficult. However, recent developments, such as NFTs and crypto, have shown that digital objects can possess value. The notion of a decentralized computing network with built-in incentives has sparked new ideas about how digital content can be created, selected, filtered, and displayed.
Despite the various approaches, the digital firehose is growing every day, and it’s unrealistic to expect that we’ll ever be able to consume everything. Yahoo attempted to read everything by curating a manually created index of the entire internet, but the task was fruitless. Instead, we have to keep building tools and letting go, accepting that we can’t keep up with everything. Embracing this reality is part of our progression into a new age of digital media.
The digital revolution has generated a massive amount of data that is difficult to manage. People are resorting to various methods to cope with the digital overload, including filters, structured documents, screenshots, and newsletters. The value of digital objects is evolving, and the importance of limiting individual data consumption is becoming increasingly obvious. Letting go of the expectation that we can consume everything is paramount to understanding how to embrace this new era of digital media.