Alyce Shu: Information overload

How much information is YOUR brain keeping on file?

Today is Day 7 of the Flu. Throughout this delightful affair I have barely left the house, confined as I am to this cabin in which I have relentless fever.

I still recall my feverish self on Day 1. Despite my brain’s inability to think, read, or watch Modern Family without flopping back onto my pillows painfully, my sultry 40.7 C degree temperature didn’t prevent me from googling “flu help me” on my phone.

The array of advice I encountered only intensified my headache: the NHS, WebMD, MayoClinic, CDC, the ever-reliable WikiHow, and, regressing down the internet food chain, Yahoo Answers. You might have to take medicine, avoid medicine, or inhale this magic medicinal powder for the better part of two days in order to avoid your potential Swine Flu, Bird Flu, and/or Meningitis.

This information overload is typical. The latest feature in the Times Weekend Edition calls it the source of exhaustion. And it is exhausting. Becoming a fourth year means I have aged ten years in the summer between May and now, so I try really hard to do that yuppie stuff: eat local, organic, free-range, fair-trade, buzzword, etc. While a semester in China meant I had to throw caution to the wind or not eat anything (fake meat? No problem!), here in St Andrews I try to give a fuck.

Giving a fuck is exhausting. Today, I went to Morrisons after going to the doctor and spent an ENTIRE HOUR weighing my options. “Local or organic?” “Fresh or canned?” “Brand name or Morrisons brand?” I definitely made about ten loops around the store returning things I’d picked up and at the last minute held up the queue when I made a dash for some organic onions on sale.

General yuppie overkill withstanding, this is not exclusive to me. Even proffered a dizzying array of opinions on which illicit narcotics consumers should take for the least likely death.

We rely too much on outside information. We rely on the repository of reviews to make so many decisions- where to eat, where to live, what iPhone case to choose, how we should rank ourselves from our University ranking, and even what to do with our lives.

And yes, perhaps there’s something nice about feeling a part of this grand community where you type in the symptoms of some obscure skin rash and can feel comforted by the proliferating forums about the exact thing you have.

But there is too much information. To be real, maybe I’m the one particularly affected by this. After all, I don’t think I saw anybody else making the rounds at Morrisons—over and over again. Not only am I locked in a state of indecision, I feel less controlled by myself than by the screens around me. Or the articles I’ve read. Or the articles my friends have read and regurgitate to me.

My brain is a house that keeps receiving catalogs, advertisements, and those stupid free magazines. No matter what I do, I can’t shut the mail slot! I keep getting all this junk and sometimes before I throw it all out, I can’t help but look through it a bit.