Mandan News

Dan Ulmer: The age of too much information

Layout 1 (Page 1)Have we gone from the information age to the “too much information (TMI)” stage?

In this age of massive information one is left to wonder what information sources one should attend to. I’m not sure about either of my loyal readers, but it seems to me that virtual cyberspace has become the new reality.

Whodda ever thought that the information age predicted back in the ’80s would be this massive? I don’t know about you, but I own a phone that’s smarter than me. I’ll attempt to ignore the snickers in the background as some folks think there are rocks smarter than me.

Remember the old phones where folks just dialed each other up and the person on the other end said hello, and things went from there? Nowadays we can actually shop from our phones. Just pull it out of your pocket, hit the right application and the next thing you know, rather than going to the grocery store, your groceries are delivered to your door.

Got a problem, no problem – Google it and an information source larger than life itself opens up at your fingertips. No more Dewey Decimal System, where you have go to the library and fumble thru card catalogues, no more fumbling through paper address books, phone books, or dialing 411 on your landline to get someone’s telephone number…. just Google a word and zoom – you’re exposed to a litany of options and sources.

Want to watch a movie? Just punch a few icons on your smart phone and there it is. Want to talk to someone on the other side of the world? Skype ’em and live video of your friends show up on your laptop. Need to find out how to build an outhouse? Google it. Catch up on friends? Facebook them, Twitter ’em, text ’em, email ’em. Want to know where the kids are? GPS ’em… the world has become more connected than it has ever been.

So is it a good thing or a bad thing? Only time will tell. But I do have to say that the ubiquitous nature of this new information age does seem to be more impersonal than the world we baby boomers emerged from.

We oldsters were used to face-to-face conversations, handwritten letters, newspapers, partying at friends’ home instead of on their website, talking as opposed to texting, hearing each other laugh out loud versus texting LOL. As I looked around a restaurant, many tables showed couples attending more to their phones than each other, and I’m left to wonder if the whole world hasn’t been sucked into cyber space.

Maybe it’s just me, but there’s a modicum of rudeness that comes along with this new age, and I’m just as guilty as anyone else. Think about how many times your face-to-face meetings have been interrupted by someone answering a text or a phone call or thumbing through some cybersite… this has become a common experience. Check it out for yourself. Next time you’re out and about, look around and see if you can confirm my hypothesis.

It seems that all of us have insidiously grown dependent on our phones and our computers and cyberspace. Most of us can’t leave home without one; many of us conduct all of our business online and all of us appreciate the freedoms that go along with these technological miracles.

Yet I can’t help but wonder how all this information access will shape the realities of the future. Is there such a thing as TMI, or is this just another form of free speech where many of us will conclude that what this country needs is more information worth attending to?

Each of us will sort through all this in our own way, so all I can do is wonder where it will lead to next.

May you find always be able to find whatever you need to know before you need to know it…