The ‘Google’ Problem: Information Overload

The ‘Google’ Problem: Information Overload

More than 30 years ago, in his trailblazing book, Future Shock (Random House, 1971),  Alvin Toffler theorized that the human brain has finite limits on how much information it can absorb and process. Exceed that limit and the brain becomes overloaded, thinking and reasoning become dulled, decision-making flawed and, in some cases, impossible.

Back then, all this sounded like a dose of science fiction, but most of today’s scientists and researchers say that Toffler was right. They tell us that information overload can indeed cause stress build-up and short-circuits in the central nervous system. Even internationally renowned doctors like British psychologist, David Lewis, Ph.D., say that “I do think there are people out there who are dying because they’re getting too much information and they don’t know how to handle it.”


The Information Overload


The rapidly growing production of healthcare information – both scientific and popular – increasingly leads to a situation of information overload affecting all actors of the healthcare system and threatening to impede the adoption of evidence-based practice.

The Internet, today, is like trying to drink from a firehose. It’s wonderful because you can always find out more information on any subject. But it’s also too easy to fall down the rabbit hole of facts and firsthand accounts. Where is the line where health information crosses from just enough to too much?


A lot of people today have started blindly trusting information available online without any credible sources or any proper backing through a study.


How do We Navigate?

The Internet offers an ideal way to discover the latest in alternative and traditional medical treatments. Websites can be updated at any time to keep up with new products, therapies, and advances in the field. But beware — the Internet is also one of the greatest sources of misinformation.


Always remember the following guidelines while researching about health conditions on the internet:


  1. Dates: Search for the most recent information you can find. Reputable Web sites include a date for each article they post. Older material may not include recent findings, such as newly discovered side effects or advances in the field.
  2. Understand the context: In today’s world, there are multiple health conditions that may appear similar on face value but are actually very different. Always understand the context of the information you find online on your particular issue and only then go ahead
  3. Always consult the expert: Nutrition, especially, as a subject has too many sources of information claiming to be credible but are actually by people with little or no background knowledge. Always consult an expert on the subject, and if you find any data online, bring it to the notice of the expert and only then proceed with utilizing the information


There are also some approaches that you can adopt when looking for information on the internet:


  1. One Recommendation Approach

    Ask your nutritionist for one recommended book or website, and then stick to that single, best source. Hyperlinks make it tempting to jump from site to site, but use them to expand and better understand the information in your primary source rather than become more points on your information path.

  2. Research Limit Approach

    If you need to make a decision and are gathering facts, judge ahead of time how long you will need to find the necessary information. Add a few minutes as a buffer and set a timer. When the timer goes off, stop researching, even if you don’t have an answer.

    Not having an answer in the allocated amount of time is a clue that the decision may be more complicated than you thought. In this case, always consult an expert and take their advice on how to proceed



About the Author

Rajan Mahendra

Mr Rajan Mahendra has worked for more than 25 years across almost 40 business verticals as a business consultant. Due to his hectic and irregular schedule, he had a health scare at the young age of 34, suffering a mini stroke. After taking medicines for almost 10 years, he started developing more complications as side effects of the medicines. After co-founding a pharmacy chain across the city and scaling it up successfully, he realized medicines were doing more harm than good and set up 'Aarogyahaar' to spread information about the power of food and healthy lifestyles!

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