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Joe Battista: Cutting Ties with Information Overload

by on June 07, 2012 6:11 AM

I am going to do it. I have finally had enough and I am going to go on a diet.

I have looked in the mirror and have decided I must change my daily habits to live a healthier life and be at peace.

No, I am not giving up my Rita's Italian Ice, or my mom's amazing homemade banana cream pie (or its close sister, the banana cream pie blizzard at Dairy Queen), or my recently acquired taste for Guiness. I am definitely not giving up my wife's gourmet Italian-Swedish wedding soup or her "almost world-famous" pepperoni bread.

I am going on a different kind of diet. I am going on an "information diet".

As I woke up the other day, I received my morning "LinkedIn Today" news message via email.

A "GradHacker" post by Andrea Zellner, a PhD candidate at Michigan State University, immediately whet my appetite. I was inspired to read it because it reviewed a book called "The Information Diet" written by Clay Johnson.

Information overload. It has become the vice of many. It's an addiction of epic proportions and it impacts people world-wide, young and old, female and male.

I have long considered just chucking it all: subscriptions to sports and hockey magazines, the local paper, the Sunday purchase of a few out of town papers, watching the 5:30 early news, the 6 o'clock local news, the national news, The Weather Channel, SportsCenter, CNN, etc.

No time for all those books you wanted to read? No problem. Subscribe to Soundview's Executive Summaries and you can get the cliff notes version of just about every business and self-help book, and you can get it sent to you online.

Running out of space for books? Tired of stacking newspapers and magazines? No worries, just grab your smartphone and you can find an app for just about everything.

There are apps for Local News Headlines, StateCollege.com, Wall Street Journal, PSU Newswire, GoPSUsports.com, USA Today, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Philly.com, Washington Post, New York Times, NHL.com, and even the bible of all things hockey ... The Hockey News. (Forget the girls, forget the booze, but never forget The Hockey News.)

I started off with the option for weekly summaries, that morphed into daily updates, and it quickly evolved (or devolved) into "instant alerts." Just like the recent popular TV commercial says "that was so 30 seconds ago." That's right, it is now a competition with your friends to see who can post the latest obscure report on Twitter or Facebook first to "spread the news."

You can read all about the Penn State scandal from BustedSports.com, The Yardbarker, The BleacherReport, ESPNnews, The Black Shoes Diary, Blue-White Illustrated, Fight on State, or PennLive.com. If you don't like the spin on one site, you simply search until you get the version that suits your views. How convenient.

It doesn't even matter anymore if the information is true, it's more about speed and a sensational headline.

I was at a wedding last January of two alumni of a certain large public university in central Pennsylvania. That was the night that a now-infamous "news organization" erroneously tweeted that a certain legendary coach had passed away. That put a little damper on the mood of the evening.

If it's not bad enough that people get these alerts, some forget to put their mobile devices on vibrate. Enough already. Do we really all need to hear your smartphone "ping" every time you get an email, text, tweet or alert? Aaaaarrrggghhhh!

We have become a people infatuated with the "app du jour" and wanting to be the first to get the scoop.

People are obsessed with information (and entertainment) to the point where they live their lives vicariously through others via the virtual world. We are a nation of insomniacs who will stay up late at night to get our information and communication fix.

We will drop what we are doing because we are trained like our pets to respond instantly to electronic messages and to pass on the latest joke, gossip or new product notice.

That's why the smartphone has affectionately been dubbed the electronic leash.

Unfortunately, like my many trials and tribulations at attempting a food diet, I have serious doubts I will succeed at this latest goal of controlling my hunger for information.

Beside, if too many people follow suit and decide to go on an information diet, I might be out of this gig as a columnist.

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From ice hockey to Intercollegiate Athletics and Smeal, JoeBa has been an integral part of the Penn State and State College communities. Battista was an influential player in the effort to bring varsity ice hockey to Happy Valley. He is now Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Buffalo Sabres.
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