Recently we learned that 90 percent of all the data in the world has been generated in just the last two years. Seems like all of it is jockeying for space on our smart phones, right? Not quite. But the average American consumes 34 gigabytes (GB) of information per day. To put that into perspective, one GB, according to Ben Patterson at heresthething.com, is equal to about 500 e-books or one 90-minute movie, 250 photos or 5,800 average-sized web pages. Get the picture? Chomping on all this data has its benefits, but how do you keep it from taking over your life?
Courtney (Carmignani) Lohmann ’05, M.A. ’07
SMC Associate Director of Alumni Engagement
I prioritize by what’s most relevant to my life and what I care about—the causes or regions that are important to me, for example. I scroll pretty quickly through information, unsubscribe from e-mails and hide things I don’t want to see on social media. And in terms of what news to pay attention to, it seems like you really have to dig to find actual facts these days. So much of it concerns personal information or speculation, with very little that is actually useful. Sorting it all out actually requires a lot of intentional effort.
Carolyn Hunter '00
Community Involvement Manager, Tetra Tech Inc.
Technology does add a level of convenience to your life. Whatever you think about, you can get on your phone and Google it. But with all the information coming at us now, it’s too easy to lose that face-to-face human connection—the personal interactions that bind us together as coworkers, friends and family. Could be we’ve gotten lazy, and I’m guilty of this, too. Instead of picking up the phone or walking over to someone, we send them an e-mail or a text message. I feel like we’re losing that interpersonal touch and aren’t spending any time together anymore.
SMC Director of Learning/Organizational Effectiveness
I filter for my commitments and responsibilities in both work and my personal life. The first thing I look for is information about the people who are dear to me—their joys, their crises or sorrows. That will stop me in my tracks, and I will want to pay attention and respond, if even with a brief acknowledgement. To me, it’s a kind of presence I want to exhibit. And I pay attention to my passions—social justice issues, theater, writing, music and dance.350
Michael Kreizenback '87
That flood will take your life, but your liberal arts may save you. Information technology annihilates time and space, making it necessary to impose basic categories of organization upon the torrent. The people I know who are best at this specialize. This new postindustrial demand for specialization extends beyond work and invades social and family life. I put entire categories of information and certain hours of the day off limits with prejudice. Even when that helps deal with the flood, it can make us appear inappropriately indifferent and impolite. Paradoxically, analog understanding and forgiveness are a necessary remedy.
Michael Brisbin '84
Attorney and Partner at Wilson Elser
With the explosion of the Internet, 24/7 news cycle, social media and electronic access to practically any news source, it's difficult to find reliable information that is not sensationalized, slanted or simply wrong. I still receive home delivery from the San Francisco Chronicle five days a week and use it as a base for information. I also have a few go-to websites that I visit daily. I find it is important to be selective about the sources I reference and pick those that are objective, if I want objective analysis… or if slanted, to then understand the slant.
Assistant Professor, Kalmanovitz School of Education
Regardless of the medium or the sheer amount of information I receive, I continually ask myself the five key questions from The Center for Media Literacy: Who created this message? What techniques are used to gain my attention? How might historically marginalized populations understand this message differently? What lifestyles, values, and points of view are perpetuated or omitted from this message? For what purpose was this message created/sent? Only by conscientiously dissecting the inherent biases in the information we receive, can we genuinely develop the type of democracy we want to achieve.
SMC Reference and Instruction Librarian
There’s so much to look at. It’s taken time to find resources I trust. I want to be curious, learn new things, but also not be overwhelmed. I can’t follow or subscribe to everything, so I rely upon a few information aggregators I like. I might watch a magazine’s Twitter feed to decide what articles I want to look at. Then sometimes I tune them out and unsubscribe for a while because it’s just too much. It’s a balance between curiosity, critical thinking and just basic survival. And I don’t know if I have an answer to it all quite yet.
Rebecca Adam Teames '02
Currently in SMC's Teaching Credential Program
Because of my responsibilities as a full-time mom and my commitment to the teaching credential program, I really have to triage what comes my way. I make a conscious choice not to pay attention to information gathering while I’m with my kids during the day. I try not to be distracted by my phone, the computer or the TV. Then when I do have my limited time to do that— after the kids’ bedtime—I want to make sure that I get the cleanest, most efficient and accurate information possible, with the least amount of spin.
SMC Interactive Media Specialist
My phone has become my No. 1 go-to for information. I use maybe six apps regularly for news and social media updates. I also have about a dozen podcasts for news, comedy, and sports I listen to while I commute, do chores or walk the dog. I shy away from broadcast news because it can be so depressing sometimes. And every now and again, I feel the need to turn it all off and go on a nice, quiet walk and admire the trees!
Joel Bahr M.F.A. '13
Marketing Specialist for School of Economics and Business Administration
This is scary to admit, but I manage through Twitter, and it’s a tightrope to walk. When defending it, I’ve called Twitter “my own personal newspaper,” and, you know, it really is. The people and news outlets I follow are tailored specifically to how I see the world. In a very real way, Twitter is giving me exactly the news that I think matters. There are times though when Twitter is an echo chamber, and my inherent follow biases limit my ability to see things in a nuanced way. I sacrifice hearing opinions that are challenging (or more accurate) for comfort.