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Overload!: How Too Much Information is Hazardous to Your Organization by Jonathan B. Spira

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CHAPTER 10

BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.

I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.

—Mae West

When I look around, I see temptation. Information. It’s like crack. You get a little information and you immediately want more.

Three beeps indicate a text message. My friends and colleagues who want my attention send me text messages when they want an immediate reply. E-mail, despite being in real time, has become less so. The same goes for instant messages, which can be ignored as well.

I get so much e-mail that I turned off the various alerts (sound and screen) long ago. Had I left the e-mail chime on, it would be one continuous noise. For the same reason, my Lotus Sametime instant messaging software also no longer chimes.

Americans today spend a vast amount of the day consuming information. A 2009 report from the University of California at San Diego (UCSD) found that each person spends an average of 12 hours per day surfing the Web and watching TV, although the study counted one hour of watching TV and surfing the Web as two hours, so some hours were counted twice. While the typical individual watches TV for five hours, uses the computer for two, and spends one hour gaming, only 36 minutes are given to print media, representing a huge shift in how we consume information.

In a typical hour spent online, according to Nielsen data from 2010, the average user spends 13 minutes on social networking sites, five minutes on e-mail, and just over two minutes using instant messaging tools. ...

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