Data Smog: How to Escape Tech Stress

What it takes to be information literate

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Data overload causes stress. Photo by Kevin on Unsplash

Do you find yourself scrolling through websites or watching mentally exhausting programs?

Google Is Your Friend- you must have heard this and even practiced it. But what you should also have been told is to put boundaries for your friend – because you know what happened to that friend who kept turning up unannounced. Research shows that data overabundance causes stress and is counterproductive. So, how do you maintain a healthy relationship with digital information?

David Shenk, the writer who coined the term data smog, suggests that every consumer should be their own ‘smart agent.’ In other words, you should be a data boss – skillful in sifting information. To achieve this goal, one must be information literate which is defined as the ability to determine, locate, evaluate, and apply the right knowledge. Let’s break down these steps into chewable bits;

1. Recognize what you need

It is a noisy world and everyone shouts louder to be heard, intruding personal privacy. You get data slapped onto your face wherever you turn even without asking for it. Shut out needless voices by using specific information to solve your problems. Start by analyzing your needs and narrowing down to what technology is right for that situation. For instance, if you have a health issue, identify it by name or symptoms. Resist random scrolling for content that is appealing to the eye but not addressing your plight.

 2. Search for the info

Search engines such as Google crawl millions of websites for keywords. That means you get overwhelming results from a single search. Strategic and concise methods such as Boolean Search and using long phrases get you specific results, saving time and emotional strain.

3. Evaluate the sources

A suitable medium informs without burdening your memory. Not every high-ranking site gives value. Is your informer skewed to serve a certain marketing agenda? Is the content authoritative?

If you are looking for medical information, for instance, it might be useful to locate websites owned by health organizations/professionals. If you need academic assistance, Google Scholar is your friend.

4. Apply the info effectively

The last stage of information literacy is the application. It is unhelpful to retrieve data that you will not use. When applying the information, you must go back to the first step of identifying your needs. Incorporating data into your knowledge base helps your brain to store the content for longer and increase your productivity. If you need large volumes of information, choose to consume and apply small chunks over an extended period. Remember that you are solely responsible for how you use the gathered data; understand the implications.

Are you ready to be a ‘smart agent’?

Any form of freedom comes with responsibility. Take control of your mental health, cut clutter, and increase your output by becoming information literate.

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