Infobesity: I am Gatien, I am infobese but I look after myself

Card's author : Gatien Bataille
Card's type of licence : Creative Commons BY-SA
Testimonies : Last night, in the building behind the cultural centre

  • Me: Good morning to all, I am Gatien and I am infobese
  • Everyone: Good morning Gatien!
  • Facilitator: Gatien, could you tell us about yourself?
  • Me, after taking a deep breath: I am unconsciously passionate... I am terribly frustrated because I can't follow the flow of information that circulates in the world every day, every hour, every second. I was engaged in many networks and naturally curious, I read magazines, all the latest books, I listened to the radio…and until recently I could manage all this…then the Internet arrived. Twitter, podcasts, webzines, newsletters, Google alerts, RSS threads…the range of possibilities became wider and wider and with an even greater number of fascinating topics. At the beginning I was overjoyed, but then frustration gradually moved in…too much interesting information I could not keep track of, I read through it all but never with enough time to go in-depth. The joy of constantly swimming in a pool of information rapidly became a feeling of drowning.
  • Facilitator: Gatien, how did you feel at that time?
  • With a trembling voice: I was so frustrated...also enraged with myself because I couldn't follow the rhythm.
  • Facilitator: Did you really think you could follow it all?
  • Recovering: No, I quickly understood that even if I used all my neurons, it would be utterly impossible to face this gigantic wave which grew larger and larger by the day. It's an unpleasant feeling…I had secretly hoped to cope with it.
  • Facilitator: So then what did you do?
  • Me: Initially I tried to be more organised. I was convinced that I could overcome this small hiccup by being better organised. I sorted emails automatically in my inbox. I cancelled my subscription to several newsletters, I organised my RSS threads and would only open articles that seemed truly relevant, I cut down on Twitter…
  • Facilitator: and…?
  • Me: Well…there were some positive effects with this organisation. We could say it became manageable again.
  • Facilitator: but you really don't look that satisfied?
  • Me: I ended asking myself if infobesity wasn't actually a part of one's character...
  • Facilitator: oh! Can you explain that?
  • Me: The more I thought about it, the more I realised I was already infobese, even before the times of Internet. You know how books pile up next to your bed quicker than you can read through them…and this was before Internet. I think this innate curiosity, the desire to learn, makes one infobese. Then you try reducing this infobesity so that the level of frustration is reasonable. And then Internet doesn't exactly make things easy. Of course there is an abundance of information, but there is also an abundance of information in libraries…what made it different, for me, was serendipity…
  • Facilitator: serendipity…I don't quite understand...
  • Me: when I am surfing the net looking for information on a specific topic it is too easy, much too easy, to come across a new topic by chance that you know little or nothing about and that, oh God! You find interesting…and then the trap closes again; another interesting topic, so now I have two…a new person to follow on Twitter, then two…an RSS thread to follow, now it's two…it's no good choosing as you go, choices must be made at the start…and this is extremely complicated. Especially when curiosity comes by nature.
  • Facilitator: What next?
  • Me, again with a quivering voice: well, I am still infobese… I think I was able to limit the stress, but my frustration remains just as high. I have learnt to keep things in perspective, to "close the store" from time to time, to convince myself that if some information is really important, it will come back to me, to go with the flow rather than trying to chase it…I think it's a good start. There's still a long way to go but you will help me, won't you?
  • All: Bravo Gatien, of course we will help you!

Some tips to manage infobesity

  • Choosing what newsletters you subscribe to…Those you don't really read = into the trash bin
  • Organising your inbox, set up an automatic sorting so that you only have important or urgent emails visible
  • Limit your subscriptions to RSS threads to topics that you are really interested in
  • Do not try to keep up with all RSS threads at whatever cost; threads older than 5 days are no longer "important" (in any case, it is up to you to choose which topics are important)
  • Plan a moment during the day to manage your infobesity…during the rest of the day, organise your time so that you are not "bothered" by the flow of information
  • Don't cause infobesity in others. Only re-scoop, re-tweet and re-send things that are really relevant
  • Share your infobesity and find support in your friends and colleagues to reduce your own personal infobesity. If everyone searches a specific topic and chooses the relevant information and the work is shared, all group members will see their infobesity drop.