DIGITAL MELTDOWN: How we should all learn to switch off digital

Infobesity. Such a brilliant word for digital overload.

It’s true using the internet is like taking a cup to a fire hydrant.

Think you’ll get on top of everything?

You won’t.

So pace yourself.


It’s dawning on me that I need to make some time to get to know a small area well.

It’s also clear to me that switching off from digital tools from time to time is vital. To recharge. To think. Heck, even to take your six-year-old to the Stoke City club shop to buy him a scarf.

Here’s two excellent pieces that made me stop and think.

In the first posted on the superbly titled Think Quarterly, Hal Varian, Google’s chief economist talks of the amount of digital content. You can read the original here.

In 2010, the human race created 800 exabytes of information.

To put that into context, between the dawn of civilisation and 2003, we only created five exabytes; now we’re creating that amount every two days.

Data is like food, says Varian. “We used to be calorie poor and now the problem is obesity. We used to be data poor, now the problem is data obesity.”

For businesses that are gorging on a surfeit of information, Varian says the fix is clear. It’s the same for data as food: “You need to focus on quality. You’ll be better off with a small but carefully structured sample rather than a large sloppy sample,” he says. More locally sourced fine dining, then, less all-you-can-eat buffet.

Oliver Bukeman in The Guardian’s the SXSWi round-up brought this wake-up call to overwork:

A related danger of the merging of online and offline life, says business thinker Tony Schwartz, is that we come to treat ourselves, in subtle ways, like computers.

We drive ourselves to cope with ever-increasing workloads by working longer hours, sucking down coffee and spurning recuperation.

But “we were not meant to operate as computers do,” Schwartz says.

“We are meant to pulse.” When it comes to managing our own energy, he insists, we must replace a linear perspective with a cyclical one: “We live by the myth that the best way to get more work done is to work longer hours.”

Schwartz cites research suggesting that we should work in periods of no greater than 90 minutes before seeking rest.

Whatever you might have been led to imagine by the seeping of digital culture into every aspect of daily life – and at times this week in Austin it was easy to forget this – you are not, ultimately, a computer.