Information Overload: Saying No to Internet-Induced Stress

Information Overload - Jessica Cole - HSLDA Blog

If you are an adult in the US who does not use Facebook, you are officially in the minority. Surveys show that around 60% of the adult population have an account, with 70% of that number visiting at least daily. That’s close to half of American adults (about 40%) who are checking their newsfeeds each day.

Facebook and other common meeting-places on the internet can be great tools, providing us ways to keep up with family and friends, updating us on the news, allowing us to “meet” people with common interests, and so on. Yet these internet outlets can also be a big problem. I have seen multiple articles describing why Facebook in particular has many negatives. It can be a time-waster, a distraction, a security threat, a source of discontentment. Not that these downfalls are going to stop most of us from using the site, but it is good to be aware of them. I think for me, though, Facebook has lately felt problematic for a slightly different reason: it stresses me out with the sheer amount of information there is to process.

Information Overload | HSLDA Blog

Before the internet age, things were different. If you wanted to keep up on the news, you read the newspaper. If you wanted to know how a friend was, you called them up. If you wanted to learn about a certain subject, you found a book, or you asked someone you knew. There was no immediate access to world news, no frivolous details of every friend’s daily lives, no instant (and widely varied) facts and opinions on any subject you could imagine. In some cases, this easy access to information can be good. But oftentimes, more information only serves to confuse and overwhelm us.

When I open my Facebook page these days, I am bombarded with questions and problems and soapbox rants from dozens of different sources at once. Some people (my husband, for instance) seem to be able to ignore these fairly well and move on. But when I am faced with a conflict or tough question, I find it difficult to concentrate on anything else until I solve it. Thus, skimming my Facebook quickly leads to an ideological war zone inside my head. Who am I going to vote for in the Presidential election? How do I feel about Syrian refugees? Why is everyone freaking out about a Starbucks cup (or are they really)? What is my stance on vaccinations? Is my family suffering because I’m making these Five Mistakes That Will Kill Relationships? What can I do to help end abortion?

Information Overload 3 - Jessica Cole - HSLDA BlogDo I really need all this stress in my daily life? Perhaps rather than letting all this smog dirty my air, I should just shut the window for a while.

Don’t get me wrong… It’s not that all these questions should be ignored. Many are important issues (though probably not the Starbucks cup). But they become a problem when they keep me from giving proper focus to my priorities. I often find myself obsessing all day over a question that I really don’t need to be dealing with right now, and perhaps not at all. It may not be easy, but probably more often than not, I need to set it aside and move on with what God has for me today.

Practically speaking, I’ve been trying lately to keep my thought process along these lines:

That article looks interesting… I’ll bookmark it so I can read it later.

I really want to share my opinion on that debate… But is that what God wants from me now?

That post makes me upset… Do I need to be dwelling on it?

That news bulletin fills me with fear… Will I trust that God is in control?

I sometimes wonder what it must have been like to walk in Jesus’ shoes on this earth. Did he, like me, ever get overwhelmed with the enormity of our sin and suffering? Of course, he did much to relieve these problems: healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the needy, preaching the good news. But these works barely scratched the surface of the problems of the whole world. And he did absolutely nothing to rescue the Jews from their Roman bondage, the very mission they all thought he was there to accomplish. Why?

Because that was not his task at hand. That was not his battle to fight. Christ came to earth to fulfill another mission… the most important one of all, as it turned out. He did not heal every invalid, nor free every slave from human bondage. But his work on the cross made possible the healing and freedom of every soul.

Information Overload | HSLDA Blog

And even in the midst of this most important mission, Jesus often took leave of his work to spend time in the presence of his Father. He did not obsess over the problems of this world, or seek out as much information as he could from as many sources as possible. Rather, he told his disciples, “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you… Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Matt. 6:33-34a)

As we enter this new year, let us not get weighed down by worries and cares… especially not the silly, fleeting ones often sparked by internet discussions. We certainly live in a fallen world, but as the recent Christmas season reminded us, that is why Jesus came. He came to overcome the world and to rule it as the Prince of Peace. May we learn better how to dwell in His peace in the year ahead.

-Jessica

Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka.

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