Do we over-consume web content?

I’ve been looking back on the amount of online content I read recently and I think I am probably like many who over-consume on a regular basis.

Technology today means we can gorge on content from the moment we wake up until we go to sleep, constantly throughout the day without hesitation; But how much of it can we actually take in? Does it reach a saturation point where we keep consuming even though our minds are full?

All you can eat information

For me personally, this information overload means that I generally cannot remember many of the things that I have read. This is because our brains are not programmed to hold lots of short-term memories.

We can use various tools to overcome this. Services like Delicious and Instapaper mean we don’t have to commit it all to memory, but it still takes an involved process to catalogue all of the content we read on a daily basis.

So what is the answer? Reduce the number of people we follow on Twitter, or RSS feeds we subscribe to? Rebalance the signal-to-noise ratio and remove some of the more superfluous things we read? Or have a system in place to catalogue online consumption for future recollection? I’m keen to hear your thoughts on the subject: You can either leave a comment below or reply to me on Twitter.

4 thoughts on “Do we over-consume web content?

  1. Rob Swan

    I’m convinced the magic number for Twitter (for me at least) is somewhere around 100. I’ve tried following far less than that and my timeline felt empty and there could be periods of total inactivity, and whenever I try to follow more than that I end up unable to read it all.

    For the rest of the ‘web content’ issue it just comes down to time; and I’d apply the same rule I do to off-line content:

    If you’ve got time to read it, and it keeps your interest long enough for you to finish reading it, then it was worth reading (even if you don’t remember a word of it the next day).

  2. welcomebrand

    I think we do need to be careful to a degree as over-consuming information can jumble the brain a little and often one of the problems is that when you’re pulling in information from a huge number of sources online is that there’s no guarantee what you’re reading is even correct.

    I think it’s down to personal habit and methods of dealing with this information though. I follow around the 350-400 mark on Twitter which I regularly prune and tweak and it gives me the right balance for me. Much more and it’s updated too fast. I have signups on so many apps and new services that fade away in no time.

    I’ve tried things like Pinterest, Zootool, Delicious etc but I just didn’t use them much and now don’t bother because for me it’s a layer of noise.

    I do find however that my RSS reader has become something I dip into daily. My habits there have been that often I find someone on Twitter, check their site and blog and I subscribe to many blogs where I actually don’t bother following on Twitter. I have no fear of the 1000+ articles unread notification in Google Reader, I view the RSS feeds as something that is a little less urgent than Twitter and I like dipping into those articles occasionally.


  3. Paul Post author

    Thanks for the comment Rob.

    I’d like to think that what I am reading gets stored somewhere (if if, as you say you can’t remember a word the next day)

  4. Paul Post author

    Hi James, thanks for leaving a comment.

    The issue of judging the accuracy of what you are reading is a good point, I’d never really thought about that aspect.

    I tend to use a service, such as Delicious as a way of recollecting things I have found interesting. My brain seems to be able to work much better searching for “portfolio agency yellow” than it does trying to remember the URL, so for that I do find it helpful.

    My RSS reader is also at 1000+ and I probably have the same habit as you, which is to dip in to the latest 10 or so every now and then.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>