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"Information overload" (also known as infobesity) is a term popularized by Alvin Toffler in his bestselling 1970 book Future Shock. It refers to the difficulty a person can have understanding an issue and making decisions that can be caused by the presence of too much information. The term itself is mentioned in a 1964 book by Bertram Gross, The Managing of Organizations. “Information overload occurs when the amount of input to a system exceeds its processing capacity. Decision makers have fairly limited cognitive processing capacity. Consequently, when information overload occurs, it is likely that a reduction in decision quality will occur.”
The term and concept precede the Internet and can be viewed from a library and information sciences perspective or viewed as a psychology phenomenon. In psychology, information overload relates to an overabundance of incoming information into the senses. Toffler's explanation of it presents information overload as the Information Age's version of sensory overload, a term that had been introduced in the 1950s. Sensory overload was thought to cause disorientation and lack of responsiveness. Toffler posited information overload as having the same sorts of effects, but on the higher cognitive functions, writing: "When the individual is plunged into a fast and irregularly changing situation, or a novelty-loaded context ... his predictive accuracy plummets. He can no longer make the reasonably correct assessments on which rational behavior is dependent."
As the world moves into a new era of globalization, an increasing number of people are connecting to the Internet to conduct their own research and are given the ability to produce as well as consume the data accessed on an increasing number of websites. Users are now classified as active users because more people in society are participating in the Digital and Information Age. More and more people are considered to be active writers and viewers because of their participation. This flow has created a new life where we are now in danger of becoming dependent on this method of access to information. Therefore we see an information overload from the access to so much information, almost instantaneously, without knowing the validity of the content and the risk of misinformation.
According to Sonora Jha of Seattle University, journalists are using the Web to conduct their research, getting information regarding interviewing sources and press releases, updating news online, and thus it shows the gradual shifts in attitudes because of the rapid increase in use of the Internet. Lawrence Lessig has described this as the "read-write" nature of the internet.
“The resulting abundance of – and desire for more (and/or higher quality) – information has come to be perceived in some circles, paradoxically, as the source of as much productivity loss as gain.” Information Overload can lead to “information anxiety,” which is the gap between the information we understand and the information that we think that we must understand. As people consume increasing amounts of information in the form of news stories, e-mails, blog posts, Facebook statuses, Tweets, Tumblr posts and other new sources of information, they become their own editors, gatekeepers, and aggregators of information. One concern in this field is that massive amounts of information can be distracting and negatively impact productivity and decision-making. Another concern is the "contamination" of useful information with information that might not be entirely accurate (Information pollution). Research done is often done with the view that IO is a problem that can be understood in a rational way.
Even though there is not a real solution how to stop information overload there are a few things that can be done to possibly reduce it. One is to spend less time on information that is not important and more time of things are needed to be known. Another is to focus on quality information. Lastly spend less time on interrupting devices such as smartphones or tablets and turn off E-mails to get disconnected from the junk mail.[unreliable source?]
The condition of "information overload" was originally hypothesized by George Miller in his PHD Dissertation written in 1956. Miller says that people have finite limits to the amount of information they can assimilate and process at one time. When people go beyond these limits "overload" results. It is under these conditions that people will become confused and are likely to make poorer decisions based on the information they have received as opposed to making informed ones.
A quite early example of the term information overload can be found in an article by Jacob Jacoby, Donald Speller and Carol Kohn Berning, who conducted an experiment on 192 housewives which was said to confirm the hypothesis that more information about brands would lead to poorer decision making. Long before that, the concept was introduced by Diderot, although it was not by the term 'information overload': "As long as the centuries continue to unfold, the number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe. It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes." –Denis Diderot, "Encyclopédie" (1755)
Early history 
Information overload has been documented throughout periods where advances in technology have increased a production of information. As early as the 3rd or 4th century BC, people regarded information overload with disapproval. Around this time, in Ecclesiastes 12:12, the passage revealed the writer’s comment “of making books there is no end” and in 1st century AD, Seneca the Elder commented, that “the abundance of books is distraction”. Similar complaints around the growth of books were also mentioned in China.
Around 1440 AD, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press and this marked another period of information proliferation. As a result of lowering production costs, generation of printed materials ranging from pamphlets, manuscripts to books were made available to the average person. Scholars complained about the abundance of information for a variety of reasons such as the diminishing quality of text as printers rushed to print manuscripts and they also felt the supply of new information was distracting and difficult to manage.
18th century 
Many grew concerned with the rise of books in Europe, especially in England, France, and Germany. From 1750 to 1800, there was a 150% increase in the production of books. In 1702, jurist and philosopher Christian Thomasius expressed concerns about the over production of books, comparing it to an epidemic. Thomasius felt with more books being published, the standards of publishing a book decreased. In 1795, German bookseller and publisher Johann Georg Heinzmann said "no nation printed as much as the Germans"  and expresses concern about Germans reading ideas and no longer creating original thoughts and ideas.
Information age 
In the modern information age, information overload is experienced as distracting and unmanageable information such as email spam, email notifications, instant messages, Tweets and Facebook updates in the context of the work environment. Social media has resulted in “social information overload”, which can occur on sites like Facebook, and technology is changing to serve our social culture. Proposals to deal with or solve IO should also be examined by looking at the context of culture and the social interactions between people.
General causes 
The general causes of information overload include:
- A rapidly increasing rate of new information being produced also known as journalism of assertion which is a continuous news culture where there is a premium put on how quickly news can be put out which leads to a competitive advantage in news reporting but this affects the quality of the news stories.
- The ease of duplication and transmission of data across the Internet
- An increase in the available channels of incoming information (e.g. telephone, e-mail, instant messaging, RSS)
- Large amounts of historical information to dig through
- Contradictions and inaccuracies in available information
- A low signal-to-noise ratio
- A lack of a method for comparing and processing different kinds of information
- The pieces of information are unrelated or do not have any overall structure to reveal their relationships
E-mail remains a major source of information overload, as people struggle to keep up with the rate of incoming messages. As well as filtering out unsolicited commercial messages (spam), users also have to contend with the growing use of email attachments in the form of lengthy reports, presentations and media files.
A December 2007 New York Times blog post described E-mail as "a $650 Billion Drag on the Economy", and the New York Times reported in April 2008 that "E-MAIL has become the bane of some people's professional lives" due to information overload, yet "none of [the current wave of high-profile Internet startups focused on email] really eliminates the problem of e-mail overload because none helps us prepare replies".
In January 2011, Eve Tahmincioglu, a writer for MSNBC, wrote an article titled "Dealing with a bloated inbox." Compiling statistics with expert commentary, she reported that there were 294 billion emails sent each day in 2010, up 50 billion from 2009. Quoted in the article, workplace productivity expert Marsha Egan stated that people need to differentiate between working on e-mail and sorting through it. This meant that rather than responding to every email right away, users should delete unnecessary emails and sort the others into action or reference folders first. Egan then went on to say “We are more wired than ever before, and as a result need to be more mindful of managing email or it will end up managing us.” 
The Daily Telegraph quoted Nicholas Carr, former executive editor of the Harvard Business Review and the author of The Shallows: What The Internet Is Doing To Our Brains, as saying that email exploits a basic human instinct to search for new information, causing people to become addicted to "mindlessly pressing levers in the hope of receiving a pellet of social or intellectual nourishment". His concern is shared by Eric Schmidt, chief executive of Google, who stated that “instantaneous devices” and the abundance of information people are exposed to through e-mail and other technology-based sources could be having an impact on the thought process, obstructing deep thinking, understanding, impedes the formation of memories and makes learning more difficult. This condition of "cognitive overload" results in diminished information retaining ability and failing to connect remembrances to experiences stored in the long-term memory, leaving thoughts "thin and scattered". This is also manifest in the education process.
Technology investors reflect similar concerns.
In addition to e-mail, the World Wide Web has provided access to billions of pages of information. In many offices, workers are given unrestricted access to the Web, allowing them to manage their own research. The use of search engines helps users to find information quickly. However, information published online may not always be reliable, due to the lack of authority-approval or a compulsory accuracy check before publication. This results in people having to cross-check what they read before using it for decision-making, which takes up more time.
Response of business and government 
Many academics, corporate decision-makers, and federal policy-makers recognize the magnitude and growing impact of this phenomenon. In June 2008 a group of interested researchers from a diverse set of corporations, smaller companies, academic institutions and consultancies created the Information Overload Research Group, a non-profit interest group dedicated to raising awareness, sharing research results and promoting the creation of solutions around Information Overload.
Recent research suggests that an "attention economy" of sorts will naturally emerge from information overload, allowing Internet users greater control over their online experience with particular regard to communication mediums such as e-mail and instant messaging. This could involve some sort of cost being attached to e-mail messages. For example, managers charging a small fee for every e-mail received - e.g. $5.00 - which the sender must pay from their budget. The aim of such charging is to force the sender to consider the necessity of the interruption. However, such a suggestion undermines the entire basis of the popularity of e-mail, namely that e-mails are free.
Economics often assumes that people are rational in that they have the knowledge of their preferences and an ability to look for the best possible ways to maximize his preferences. People are seen as selfish and focus on what pleases them. Looking at various parts on their own, results in the negligence of the other parts that work alongside it that create the effect of IO. Lincoln suggests possible ways to look at IO in a more holistic approach by recognizing the many possible factors that play a role in IO and how they work together to achieve IO.
Dealing with information overload 
There are various methods that can be used to alleviate IO. It is difficult to say if there is a solution that can solve the issue altogether, but many methods have been suggested. However, there is a large amount of advice available, as well as methods to help alleviate IO, but they are subjective in that they can serve different personal opinions and preferences.
Johnson advises discipline and for the elimination of push or notifications. He explains that notifications pull people’s attentions away from their work and into social networks and e-mails. He also advises that people stop using their iPhones as alarm clocks which means that the phone is the first thing that people will see when they wake up leading to people checking their e-mail right away.
The use of Internet applications and add-ons such as the Inbox Pause add-on for Gmail. This add-on does not reduce the amount of e-mails that people get but it pauses the inbox. Burkeman in his article talks about the feeling of being in control is the way to deal with information overload which might involve self-deception. He advises to fight irrationality with irrationality by using add-ons that allow you to pause your inbox or produce other results. Reducing large amounts of information is key.
Dealing with IO from a social network site such as Facebook, a study done by Humboldt University  showed some strategies that students take to try and alleviate IO while using Facebook. Some of these strategies included: Prioritizing updates from friends who were physically farther away in other countries, hiding updates from less-prioritized friends, deleting people from their friends list, narrowing the amount of personal information shared, and deactivating the Facebook account.
Attention Philanthropy is considered to be a gift of notice  that is “focused on shining a light on work that’s worth supporting, yet falls outside the notice of the usual sources of funding or acclaim.” It places an importance on money, but more important than the money is the exposure and the attention for good initiatives. In the midst of all the initiatives that are created, there is an emphasis placed on the “little guy.” Attention Philanthropy does face some difficulties. For example, certain initiatives can turn into popularity contests where feel-good ideas are supported. That is not to say that these initiatives are bad but that a popularity contest between initiatives don’t guarantee the effectiveness of the initiative. The desired outcome of attention philanthropy is to “increase the flow of world-changing projects and people into the system... [and] connect the mainstream to the leading waves of innovation and speeding the uptake of good ideas throughout society.”
Media like the internet are conducting research to promote awareness of information overload. Kyunghye Kim, Mia Liza A. Lustria, Darrell Burke, and Nahyun Kwon conducted a study regarding people who have encountered information overload while searching for health information about cancer and what the impact on them was. The conclusion drawn from the research discusses how health information should be distributed and that information campaigns should be held to prevent irrelevant or incorrect information being circulated on the internet.
Other than that, there are many books published to encourage awareness of information overload and to train the reader to process information more consciously and effectively. Books like "Surviving Information Overload" by Kevin A. Miller, "Managing Information Overload" by Lynn Lively. and "The Principle of Relevance" by Stefania Lucchetti deal effectively with the topic.
Clay Johnson (technologist), the author of the book The Information Diet, uses a metaphor for Information Overload by comparing the information we consume to a diet. The idea is that people tend to consume the information that they find to be interesting, which he says is similar to people “eating desert first”. The use of social networks, blogs, and online videos has accentuated this because people share what they find interesting with all their friends online causing it to spread. There is a need to create cheap, popular information and this is how the media has defined itself today; by producing information like this. He compares it to the food industry which industrialized and created incentives for producing a large amount of cheap, popular calories.
The problem of organization 
Some cognitive scientists and graphic designers have emphasized the distinction between raw information and information in a form we can use in thinking. In this view, information overload may be better viewed as organization underload. That is, they suggest that the problem is not so much the volume of information but the fact that we can not discern how to use it well in the raw or biased form it is presented to us. Authors who have taken this tack include graphic artist and architect Richard Saul Wurman (the man who coined the phrase information architect) and statistician and cognitive scientist Edward Tufte. Wurman uses the term "information anxiety" to describe our attitude toward the volume of information in general and our limitations in processing it. Tufte primarily focuses on quantitative information and explores ways to organize large complex datasets visually to facilitate clear thinking. Tufte's writing is important in such fields as information design and visual literacy, which deal with the visual communication of information. Tufte coined the term "chartjunk" to refer to useless, non-informative, or information-obscuring elements of quantitative information displays, such as the use of graphics to overemphasize the importance of certain pieces of data or information.
Related terms 
- A similar term "information pollution" was coined by Jakob Nielsen[when?]
- The term "interruption overload" has begun to appear in newspapers such as the Financial Times
- "TMI" (too much information), an acronym alluding to information overload but often used in jest
- Cognitive dissonance
- Continuous Partial Attention
- Internet addiction
- Learning curve
See also 
- 'Too Much To Know, a 2011 book about information overload
- Accelerando, a 2005 science fiction novel about information overload and accelerating change
- Glass cockpit
- Information explosion
- Attention management
- Attention economy
- Culture shock
- Lexicographic information cost
- Stress management
- Time management
- Information pollution
- Analysis paralysis
- Age of Interruption
- Information management
- Filter bubble
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