Information Overload

I’m keeping it short tonight, because I just got back from a weekend trip, and am getting ready to start work again tomorrow. Tonight, I read a story in Atomjack that very much suits my mood. K.P. Graham’s “The Girl With the Error Message Eyes” captures the relentless feeling of news feeds and the constant need to check e-mail. From the story:

A message scrolled along down near the floor. It was a news story about the war. A helicopter crash had killed a dozen young men. Mike ignored it. He had tried to edit his profiles to filter the war news, but headlines kept creeping in under other topics. Mike squeezed his eyes shut to avoid thinking about the war, but the news story scrolled by. It always happened this way. The link software misinterpreted his interest in the story and the headlines jumped up in a larger font. Mike had never mastered the art of not reacting to his link.

He opened his eyes and looked about him trying to think of something else. As he focused on a bicycle, the in-store software boxed it and the price and specifications appeared just to its right. As he turned the other way, the network filled his vision with other consumer data, keying in on any product that he looked at for more than a second. A link to a shopping guide that Mike had once accessed fired up alongside the Kmart data, offering price comparisons.

This is a near future vision that’s all too close to real life. Sometimes, the flow of information makes me feel surrounded and unable to reflect. This story is about finding somewhere to unhook from the grid. I did that, a little, this weekend — I stayed away from my work e-mail. It’s frightening how anxious it makes me, and especially frightening how much it comes to a head when I return and open that inbox. Graham’s story came at a good time for me. He also uses this identification to tell a moving story about war.

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