How to Manage Information Overload

mobile phone screen with social media app icons

This content is featured on the UACCM app, a resource for students on topics like technology, wellness, campus life, and student success. The app is available to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

2020 proved to be an eventful year. Between electoral politics, natural disasters, racial injustice issues, and a global health pandemic, our newsfeeds stayed active. Let’s face it, sometimes this led to an information overload—especially when trying to sift through facts and news developments, while keeping up with classes and study schedules.

This is a problem that we all had last year, so examine these tips below to help stay informed, maintain your success as a student, and manage information overload.

 

What’s your motivation?

When opening a social media app or a browser, think about what you want to learn from that session and why. Are you tracking a specific current events story to remain informed? Is something in your community making you feel anxious? Are you trying to find information or a point of view that reaffirms your own beliefs?

Identifying the motivation behind your research of a topic is important. It will help you set your expectations, manage your emotion, and understand various opinions. Before tapping your screen to read an article or watch a video, first reflect on what you ultimately want to get out of it.

 

Sources. Sources. Sources. Confirmation bias

When starting to consume information, first think where it is coming from. In your classes, you are told by your instructors that not all sources are created equal. Some are reliable to include in a paper. Others are not.

The same tip applies to consuming information. Exercise critical thinking about where you are getting that content. Is it a news piece created by a journalist, an expert in a field, or a scholar? Or is it an opinion piece made by a pundit expressing their point of view?

 

Many of us have that neighbor or a friend where we are in total agreement. We may both love the style of a starting quarterback. Or we have the same strong opinion about Star Wars: Rogue One. It’s nice to have that validation that others think the same way as you do.

When it comes to information, getting the same viewpoint cannot always be a good thing. It’s easy to fall into the trap of confirmation bias, where we are seeking sources that are in sync with our own. Scholars define confirmation bias is the occurrence when we tend to “accept information unquestionably when it reinforces some predisposition we have or some existing belief or attitude.” While that may be easier during a difficult news cycle, the danger of confirmation bias to lead to a blurring of fact and opinion.

 

Give yourself a break

At some point, it’s time to close your newsfeed and take a break. To maintain good grades and succeed as a student, be sure to take care of your mental health. If you feel like the information that you’re taking in is negatively impacting your emotions, then move to something else. Talk to friends or family, take your dog for a walk, or get creative.

Be sure to take advantage of your smartphone settings that can help you manage how much time you spend on an app. For iOS devices, Screentime is a useful tool, which you can explore more here.  

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