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24/01/2020 Communication Science news and articles

The curses of information overload: a letter from the Editor-in-Chief

Do you feel like you’re being wasteful when taking a break? Dalis describes how one book on media massively reduced stress in her daily life.


As media has always been an essential part of my life, I grew up to be a (very) critical person. From fashion and art magazines to opinion pieces and the news, the media has always provided me with escapism and diversions. However, I am currently attempting to do a media cleanse. Why? Like a lot of circumstances in my life, it all started with a book. This time, a book written by a neuroscientist on how certain mindless habits are depleting our brains’ capacity.

Before taking you into a long-winded spiral of thoughts (also known as a rant), let me introduce myself. My name is Dalis Robinson, and I am the current Editor in Chief for Medium Magazine. I have lived in Amsterdam for almost three years while studying Communication Science. Since I got here, I have untangled several issues that are meaningful to me. Yet, I still have not concluded whether I consider information as a blessing or a curse.

I began reading The Organized Mind by Daniel Levitin last November. Right into the first chapter, he remarks that the tasks we currently are taking on would have been performed by ten different individuals in the past. This made me realize that as someone who reads the news, magazine articles, articles I edit for Medium, lots of Instagram captions, and texts from my friends: I could not agree more. I had developed an unhealthy habit of exhausting myself mentally almost daily by consuming unnecessary information. After all, if we are what we eat, we must also become a little of what we read.

By implementing boundaries to several instances of my daily life, I have let go of lots of stress and self-disappointment. Focusing on the moment and informing myself selectively each day is what’s worked best for me. As a passionate person, limiting myself to doing just enough has been a constant struggle that leads me to feel impatient. Back in Mexico, when I was still in high school, I would write articles for an online publication and submit my poetry to my school’s magazine. In retrospect, I think I began doing this because of my impatience for fulfilling my dream of becoming a journalist.

If there is one thing I am sure about, it’s that the poetry I wrote back in high school was faulty and quite cheesy. But I was bold for publishing it. One of my professors, who was trying to ridicule me at the time, incited me to recite one of my poems. Despite his arrogant tone, challenging glance, and awful cigarette stank, I stood before 49 of my classmates and recited it. After a few seconds of dead silence, to my professor’s surprise (and mine, frankly), all of my classmates applauded and complimented my writing.

A similar situation to this experience of mine could have undoubtedly taken place 50 years ago to my grandparents. The impositions of society and others have an extensive history of being lax on personal growth. But these have excelled at influencing our worldview and what we think about ourselves. As if it wasn’t bad enough, now we have media and social networks for a significant portion of our time to exacerbate the vulnerability of showing ourselves to the world. How many times hasn’t an Instagram-scrolling session made you think less of yourself, your abilities, or your physical appearance?

By making ourselves fit into what societal standards, television series, social media, and corporations coerce us to, we forget the boldness that ignited our childhood and teenage aspirations. We try shaping ourselves in molds that no one may ever be able to fit into. Media and globalization have primed us into thinking that to get the life we want and “deserve,” we have to work non-stop, be successful, and do it fast. For many of us as students and young professionals, this translates into guilt when being ‘unproductive.’ Doing it all to the point of doing nothing, feeling exhausted for saturating ourselves with unceasing and unnecessary information.

Exhaustion and depression in the student community are relevant topics for academics and the news all over the world. At Yale University, the increasing depression in students led psychology professor, Laurie Santos, to create a course specializing in The Science of Well-Being which is now available for free online. The course consists of 10 weeks of rewirement coursework that explores expectations, misconceptions, and what truly leads us to happiness from a psychological approach. She created the course with the intention to increase happiness in students and teach them how to build more productive habits.

In a world in which the word ‘internship’ is code for unpaid labor required to be deemed as capable, how can we stand firm on our boundaries? 

Instead of striving to be friends, students, and employees under perfection standards that have been passed onto us, I believe that being patient with ourselves and reflecting on what aligns with our values rather than social media is an excellent place to start. Unlike the numerous unhappy marriages that did not break apart decades ago due to social standards, we should break tradition and divorce our lousy habits of exhaustion.

This is me calling for a wild revolt against and within ourselves. To self-reflect on how spreading ourselves too thin attempting to do it all may be self-sabotage in disguise. How scrolling endlessly on our phones may be the source of some (if not all) of our insecurities. To make peace with the fact that if we have something guaranteed in life, is that we will not achieve absolute knowledge or perfection. This doesn’t mean that we should walk around the world flaunting our ignorance but rather giving ourselves credit for what we learn daily and comparing ourselves only to who we were yesterday.

Last but definitely not least, I would like to wish you a Happy New Year and thank all Medium staff publicly for what has been almost three months of publication and a fantastic variety of topics! As I continuously say, I believe in you and our collective intention to make a difference by creating content that matters to us.

The views expressed in this letter do not reflect the opinions of all Medium staff.

Cover: Rawpixel.com

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