Sorting through the mess of information

Story today in the NY Times, talking about the digital age and how we’ve got more information than we literally know what to do with…at our fingertips.

And there is just too much information. We can have thousands of people sending us suggestions each day — some useful, some not. We have to read them, sort them and act upon them.

As we pay for them with our time, the human need for surprise presents an opportunity for new businesses. Can someone sort the information and provide the relevant thoughts to the specific person who doesn’t yet know he needs it? Facebook is providing some tools to subdivide friend lists, so posts from the cat-video coterie won’t interfere when you’re jousting with political-news fanatics.

So the question is, are we learning more? Or are we paying attention less? We’re not going back to the Dark Ages anytime soon, so it’s no longer a question of whether or not it’s acceptable. I think instead, we have to look at what we have at our disposal in terms of social tools and other mediums and recognize that there’s still much work to do be done. So much to say and yet, the lowered cost of sending a message means it can be easier for people to waste our times with useless garbage. Those little minutes start to add up.

What we’ll do with them, will determine how the next year shape up. But it’ll also determine who we talk to, how much we communicate with those individuals and how much time we’ll be able to devote to devoting our time to the things that we once found meaningful that often get swallowed up in a digital world — simple pleasures like listening to records, writing letters or :gasp: face-to-face conversations — can often be lost in a world where we need to know quick fast and in a hurry.

Every tweet, every text and even the times we call, can seem so innocuous that we hardly recognize the intrusiveness of someone interrupting things that used to be uninterrupted like grocery shopping or road trips to far flung places. It changes the way we interact with each other.

So what’ll it be? Will an entire industry crop up around information sorting? Or will we learn to get better at parsing what’s important and what’s not?