Technologies Streamline Processes, Causing Overload

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Why do we feel overloaded and stressed by our digital lives? It comes down to the essence of technology.

Technological development streamlines processes and reshapes our cultural and social relationships. Adopting new technologies can be stressful, whether it is automation in the workplace, more rapid transportation, or new forms of information dissemination and communication. There is also stress from grappling with the changed social and cultural relationships stemming from technological change.

Today’s information technology enables people to externalize themselves through highly streamlined information exchange that also collapses time and space. Whenever information technology has advanced, from the invention of the printing press to today’s digital media, our ability to exchange information increases. But adjusting to new technology can strain our cognitive abilities; a feeling of information overload is just one example. New forms of information technology demand faster mental information processing, whether it be through printed text as in the past, or now, through digital content. Additionally, we must acclimate ourselves to reshaped social environments created by advances in information technology.

Our era of advanced digital technology has brought the most rapid increase in information and stimulation processing that we have ever experienced. Whether it is the continuous distraction and multitasking that the processing speeds of cellphones and laptops enable at any time of the day in any location, or the continuous intake of audiovisual information — through non-stop listening to music on powerful headphones, watching instantly accessible TV shows and movies with rapid and frequent camera angle switching, or consuming multiple porn videos in one sitting on a daily basis — our relationships with the new forms of information technology can result in information overload and overstimulation.

Although pleasurable in the moment, the absence of solitude and the continuous consumption of novel information and external overstimulation affect the mind in ways responsible for the psychic pains and mental health issues we experience today. Thus, in seeking to mitigate those pains and issues, it is absolutely important to understand and reshape our relationship with digital media, just like people have done in the past with the technology of the printing press and the vast amount of information made available, in order to protect themselves from those psychic pains and live better lives, to the fullest.

Benton Turner