Friday, November 9, 2007


You've heard of TMI, right? Well, it's real. scary real. With the internet, news on tv, in the paper, on the radio, it's nearly impossible to avoid being overloaded with information. Fear is easily awakened and hard to put to rest. Many people, especially children, exposed to unfiltered, unexplained "facts" presented as truth or just as pieces of information, are unable to decide which to believe, which to worry about.
Many people feel that they need to know as much about everything as possible. Search engines, like Google, have made such knowledge readily available with little effort on our part. In the past, one had to really seek out that much information, whether relevant or tangential to the subject. That effort generally required a desire that was born of some passion or need to know, vs. a casual curiosity about something that showed up on the news or was discussed at the soccer game. The level of ability to interpret the facts discovered in such a search is very important, as information can be very frightening without filters and help with interpretation. Not censors, but filters, where the context of the information is understood or at least sought, and not just facts thrown out for public consumption with no explanation. Pure shoveling of facts onto the public, as is the practice of the news media very often, is like getting flour and egg and oil and water thrown out onto a table and expecting people to make a cake. Certainly the idea of making a cake from the ingredients appeals to many, but the ability to do so is predicated on the fact that a person has a recipe or experience with the ingredients and their parts and importance to the outcome. To toss random facts, or "factoids" as they are called sometimes, out for public use without a "recipe" is to ask for disaster, as the information may be used incorrectly and the outcome may not be what was intended, or what was possible given the ingredients.
Albert Einstein, a man with a lot of knowledge, said "I've discovered that the men who know the most are the most miserable". Think of King Solomon in the Bible. He had wisdom beyond that of any person and he blew it big time! He couldn't or wouldn't be happy.
I'm not saying we should be ignorant, though the adage "ignorance is bliss", comes to my lips regularly as I answer questions from parents, questions I would never have known to ask and thankfully didn't need to know the answer. The availability of raw information is not a bad thing, just a potentially dangerous thing, especially if it leads to general disquiet and stress in the recipients. In my practice, the worried well are the vast majority. They have been worried by an ultrasound done during pregnancy that showed fluid somewhere it shouldn't be or no fluid where there should be some. They are worried because they read or heard or saw something on tv, or from a neighbor or relative or heaven forbid, at Walmart. A casual comment from someone can precipitate a major worry in some, i'd say many, people, especially parents (read moms).
I don't recommend watching the news regularly - if something happens that you need to know about, someone will call you or a siren will go off. It's amazing how much stress can be reduced by that simple step. Now, ironically, since you are reading a blog, I recommend staying off the internet. I promise nothing will happen or be discovered about which you won't hear from someone within the next 24 hours. Some people are more stressed that they will miss something, but most are stressed by hearing something over which they have no control and then obsessing on it.
We are addicted to information.
The more you know, the better, right? I don't think it's better to know more, necessarily. We've all used the phrase "a little knowledge is dangerous". If a little is dangerous, what is a lot? more dangerous, I propose. so what do we do? Do we hide our heads in the sand and stop watching and reading and searching? Do we let others interpret facts for us? Do we strive for understanding in every area of geopolitics, history, medicine, science, language, art, religion,and culture? Yes to all, with a caveat. Balance is the key. For some, the ostrich method will work. I'm amazed at the amount of peace I have when I'm not bombarded by news all the time. I feel no withdrawal symptoms. However, some may not be so lucky. Others, myself again included, are content to leave interpretation up to others, at least most of the time. The more personal a subject becomes, the less I'm willing to delegate the responsibility, but it makes sense to me to let experts collate and review and present the information in a form I can digest. Sort of like having a cake made for me vs. having to make it myself. And to do one's own study, to go deeper into a subject or area, to become an expert or at least more informed than the average citizen, is gratifying in certain instances where the topic is of special interest or concern.
it is unlikely that we will stop the overflow of information that comes our way. it will probably only come faster. we must learn how to deal with it, using common sense and balance.
that's enough information for now.

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