I have the answer to information overload.
Close this window and go take a walk.
If you are still here, you are the problem. Which, as it also happens, is the answer to the question: what is the problem with the world?
Information overload is a cyberpunk name for ADD. ADD used to be a stigma, like weed, but now that everyone has it, it’s been normalized, like weed, and it’s gotten an almost pious quality to it, like, you get the point.
We live in bursts of 20 seconds. Shorts. If I had to compress this entire essay into a shorts, it would go like this: Information overload is not causing attention deficit—attention deficit is what’s causing information overload.
After which I would promptly vomit.
You are thumbing through the world, and the farts of information short-circuit your attention into believing you are doing a lot with your life. When, really, it’s paralyzing you from doing anything. Your brain is a fruit fly on the rotting banana of the news. Your head’s constipated and you insist on exclusively eating fast food.
Information overload is mostly just opinion overload. You know how the last sip of Green tea tastes? Now imagine drinking an entire glass of just the last sips of Green tea. That’s what browsing the Internet can feel like.
So what do we do?
How about the next time you have a life-changing thought, you keep it the fuck to yourself?
And before you point out the irony in my faux intellectual need to opine this, adding to the cyber landfill, I must refer you to the earlier irony in your reading this despite being told, explicitly—very early on if my memory is still to be trusted—to not do so and in no uncertain terms, to take a hike, and then to ask me why I am filling your head with manufactured outrage just makes me want to write an essay about how everyone’s a dick. I am a product of the Internet; I am sexy and I don’t care who knows it.
If you are still reading, it may be for the same reason I am still writing.
What gets your attention must be worth it. And you decided this was. In shorts vernac: Self-respect is how much respect you give your attention.
Bulimia. Bulimia. Bulimia.
All ideas on this blog are bubbles of attention I had over the last few months—most often, years—before I actually post them. It’s only when I have forgotten all about the idea and continue to struggle with the dominance of that idea in my life—information overload in this case—do I have the need to go back and write about it, attend to it, again, until, midway, I have a hunch that I may have written about this already. I don’t write as a solution to a (my) problem, but as an ode to my attention.
An overwhelming amount of the Internet is our failed attempts at trying to be right. If you are interested in knowing everything, you are not curious, just anxious. Information overload is not the panacea for your ignorance, it’s pigeon-feed for your insecurities. The answer you are looking for is never in more information, but in eliminating everything that distracts you from what’s essential. From what’s, for lack of a better example, You. The answer, for the most part, is in how much attention you give to the question.
If you are a reader, even remotely, the number of books out there will overwhelm you. If you are a good reader, though, it won’t. Because what’s passing off as books now is a garbage dump of thoughts, a word assemblage by a raccoon with wi-fi.
While we are on books, what’s with everyone writing a fuckin memoir? Before you start on your memoir, you should consider the real possibility that maybe your parents didn’t love you enough as a kid because, as it happens with a few kids, you were an assole. Most memoirs are self-pity sold as self-transcendence. They are literature’s version of autoerotic asphyxiation. Everyone has a story—cool, but not everyone is a fucking writer, okay.
Anyway, starting out, you read everything you can get your hands on and that’s how you arrive at what’s worthwhile. My reading got better only when I realized I didn’t have to read all the books to completion; when I went from the phoney need to complete a large number of books a year to the need to read only the books I enjoyed, once and slowly. Reading lived on, for me at least, because my attention was allowed to breathe.
The Internet is a receptacle for people’s desire to play God. In the process, we are all turning into religious nut-jobs. Tiny cults. Every WhatsApp group is a Jonestown unto itself. Every notification, sipping a bit of that cyanide-infused Kool Aid. Information explosion is a testament to our exponential ability to prove that the more full of shit we are, the more full of ourselves we can be. Knowledge used to be a function of attention, and now it has become a remnant of repetition. The catastrophe of information overload is that you know nothing about you, and yet, you know so much about nothing.
I don’t know what the word soul means, but I know without attention, art would have no soul. It’s that mysterious and that evident. Without attention, everything you do becomes one more exercise in finding your passion, your purpose. In looking busy, the nonpareil fool’s errand. You are searching for the needle where there’s light instead of where you dropped it.
We are coming to the end of the essay. Makes you happy, doesn’t it? Personally, I am delighted. That’s what information has done to us. Everything we are doing is an interlude in our need to do the next thing. And if you can do two things at once, you have an orgasm. There’s so much left to accumulate. And yet everything that’s worth knowing is looking for an emptiness to pass through.
Attention is to life what the air is to a flute. Your life, like your quest for information, is a search to find a flute without any of those stupid holes.