Bookmarked No End to Content Overload by Amit Gawande

Amit Gawande’s struggle is very recognisable, also after ditching most if not all passive consumption. There’s always more content, and its creation outpaces your intake by many orders of magnitude. In the ’00s I blogged quite a bit about information strategy, one where abundance of information is a given. Most of the information strategies and tactics I learned earlier were based on information scarcity, or at least on a scarcity of access to abundant information. That’s when I assumed information and content abundance, and that my agency lies in starting from my information needs. My agency turns overload into abundance, a switch created by a change in assumed locus of control.

When we say “I cannot keep up!“, what does ‘keeping up’ mean really? At some point I realised it was mostly an outside perspective and projection by others that I internalised. From a time where most information thrown at me was chosen by others (school e.g.). That perhaps instilled the notion that the value of information is determined by the sender. In abundance the value is in the attention I pay to selection and to the hunt for the types of surprisal I want to encounter. For many years now I’ve been practicing (and regularly failing to different extends) an inside-out perspective where my current interests and tasks determine what’s worthwile to take in.

There I see my network of peers as a large scale antenna and a filter that work because of distributed conversations taking place between us. They share with me, I share stuff with them, the feedback loops lift signals above the noise. I’ve learned to trust that if it’s important to me it will surface again, because of those feedback loops. At the very least it made me unafraid to click ‘mark all items read’ daily in applications, and treat my never diminishing unread stacks of books as an anti-library available to explore when I have an actual interest to pursue. Keeping up in such a perspective is ‘easy’, as it is my own speed that I need to keep up with and not the global firehose of everything produced under the sun. There’s no need to see it ‘all’, just enough. It keeps being a struggle though, with all media trying to keep pushing everyone’s ‘pay attention to me’ buttons.

Maybe, I need to make peace with the fact that I cannot keep up. I cannot keep up with the growing list of brilliant books. I cannot keep up with the gifted writers churning beautiful essays. And, with a heavy heart, accept that I am okay with it.

Disengaging from passive consumption has helped me. But there’s too much good content that I can’t keep up with.

Amit Gawande