information overlad

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Information Overload, Narrative and Life.

Earlier this year, one of my best friends found himself in a bar, having a drink with another friend. A girl at the table next to them started chatting to him. Not only are they dating now, but one of her friends is dating another friend of mine. This seemingly coincidental event led to significant changes in people’s lives. What if they didn’t decide to venture out to that bar that night? Or simply sat further away? They wouldn’t have met.

These sort of accidental meetings happen every day, and has always happened. You meet people through hops and acquaintances. My first serious girlfriend, for example, I met because of a series of events: 1) failing to qualify for a play, 2) getting a role in another play, 3) meeting the director’s sister, 4) who lived with my ex.

Each day is riddled with potential exciting new people you can meet. Avenues that are long and wide, that is simply a proverbial “small door” away.

But today. In our current age, it just becomes worse. Opportunities to connect to people have exploded. I’ve met the most amazing people through Twitter. I’ve seen amazing photos of strangers on Instagram. I’ve connected with like-minded musicians on SoundCloud. The list goes on. It’s exciting!

And then I think. Man. I might each moment be missing out on experiences that define people’s lives. Rian (@rianvdm), recently linked a post by Scott Berkun about information overload. It struck me, that my feelings toward information ‘overload’ isn’t necessarily about an increase the amount of information, but more that increased connectedness brings about too many opportunities that are within reach.

We do heuristically filter information. That I’ve gathered from my Masters research into information overload. Our brains are effective at managing too much information, even when faced with the so-called ‘information explosion’.

But, what we miss, is the opportunity to experience. Our opportunity costs to do anything in an increasingly connected world becomes higher and higher. For example, a second difference on Omegle can mean the difference of entirely different lives! That’s exciting and depressing at the same time. When I told Rian that, he sent me a link to a post by Linda Holmes, and it sums it up quite well:

That’s the moment you realize you’re separated from so much. That’s your moment of understanding that you’ll miss most of the music and the dancing and the art and the books and the films that there have ever been and ever will be, and right now, there’s something being performed somewhere in the world that you’re not seeing that you would love.

And, that’s life, I guess. Just like my friend who met the girl he is dating now in a random moment, we can curate our lives with people we want to, on the internet. We can connect to so maaany opportunities!

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As I near the end of my Masters (less than a month left), I’m faced with certain decisions about what to do next. When accidental moments can mean so much, taking much larger life decisions suddenly feel scary. I will take them. I’m not afraid of that. I know what I will decide I will enjoy. That’s who I am. I make the most of where I am. I enjoy learning. I enjoy people, and their stories. But there’s always a small feeling that your life could’ve been vastly different. And with that in mind, I have to decide where I want to steer my life next.

To make that decision, I started to think about what narrative will mean the most to me at this stage in my life. There are several options that seem interesting. Without divulging too much, they seem to be split up between 1) South Africa, 2) Silicon Valley and 3) Travelling. All 3 choices are “big”. They can set me on paths that can forever change my life. And frankly, I don’t know what to choose at this stage. I keep changing my mind every day.

For now, I’ll just greet smiles and hopefully increase those happy accidental moments. :)

P.S. I do realise that this is probably very normal to feel at this stage in one’s life. C’est la vie.