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Infobesity and getting off the infocarousel

Have you noticed how noisy the world has become? As someone who regularly feels the need to retreat to the quiet and solitude of nature, I feel rather guilty for contributing to this noise. Writing a couple of blogs a day, posting and replying to tweets, sharing my opinions with journalists; it all adds to the information overload we experience.

I know that I suffer from ‘infobesity’. This colloquialism is used to describe an overabundance of information but also the physical and cognitive condition in humans that can result from over-consumption of information.Too much information is bad for us, our ability to focus and our ability to communicate.

Accepting infobesity is real, this is bad news for advisers from many different perspectives. We tend to share a lot of information with our clients, some because we need to (thanks, FCA) and some because we want to. Client ability to absorb information and understand the implications of what we are telling them is no doubt affected by infobesity.

And from a marketing perspective, infobesity is starting to render a lot of what we do null and void. In an increasingly noisy world, one more voice shouting into the void is about as effective as random drug testing on Lance Armstrong. Fewer people notice you and what you have to say these days. Deal with it.

Unless you are doing something significantly different from the crowd, accept that you are destined to go unnoticed. There are only so many hours in the day and there is more information being pumped into each unit of finite time. Better, faster, stronger. This ‘infocarousel’ (I’m trademarking that one) is accelerating day by noisy day.

Infobesity creates challenges for product providers as well. I was subjected to a telephone survey the other morning – accepted only because the directors of the company running the survey are clients – asking about my recognition of product and fund provider advertising. Nothing. Zilch. Nada. This wasn’t me just being evasive or controversial (for a change). I don’t think it was the result of some mental impairment. I genuinely could not remember specific advertising campaigns from any of the 40+ providers my friendly surveyor named.

Now I make something of a conscious effort to avoid advertising, as much as I admire this dark art. TV in this household is only consumed via catch-up or on-demand services, nothing live. I can think of little worse than an evening interspersed with messages from global corporations about how they can enable you to live an aspirational life (and definitely don’t exploit child labour to manufacture their products).

But despite going to what some might view as extraordinary lengths to shun advertising in all of its forms, I do consume a lot of media which contains adverts. Online or print trade publications and consumer magazines are less killer than filler when it comes to corporate messages. What I’m starting to think is that approaches which worked in the past are unlikely to work at all in the future, mostly as a result of infobesity.

As I wrote at the start, I know I’m amplifying this problem. I’m also acutely aware of the irony in writing another blog post about the issue I’m describing, expanding it further still. But I want to get off the infocarousel. I want to do less, make less noise, become about quality rather than quantity.

Next on my bedside reading pile is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. The book suggests the way out of information overload is to become an essentialist. Naturally this is what the author claims they teach at Apple, Google and Facebook, so it must be great. I’ll report back when I’ve finished reading it and applied some of the ideas to my noisy life. Or maybe I won’t.

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