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Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Information Overload

I was doing my half-hour on the bike the other day at the gym, and a feeling I've been having for quite some time returned. As satelite radio blared in my ears and I stared at an expert on one subject or another on Oprah, CNN, ESPN, and at least one other channel, trying to tell me what I should know, or should be doing, or who, as a matter of fact, was going to win on Sunday, I wanted to make it all go away.

Just make all the noise stop. All the advice be silent. Hush all the experts. Have all the opinions be held. The cliches, the infomercials, and, yes, even the blogs, all take a day off.

The irony of writing this in a blog is by no means lost on me. And, no, I’m not suggesting I should be the one heard above the endless hum of the world. God help us all should that day ever come.

But I began wondering how and/or why it was determined that we needed opinion, after opinion…after opinion…on every piece of news. Just like everything else, the concept of expert analysis has been bastardized into sticking a microphone on to the lapel of anybody with an opinion. In fact, we’re often treated to panels of these so-called experts.

Even worse, I think, is the ferocity with which every opinion seems to be offered. It’s no longer Sunday morning discussion on the key issues of the week; it’s daily, heated debate on whatever’s hot that hour. Viewers and radio listeners and blog readers are generally screamed at, berated, and supposed to feel stupid if we disagree with what’s being said, while being bombarded with information, opinion, the latest controversy, disaster, urgent yet relatively unknown impending planetary disaster – ok, I’m exxaggerating, but only a little – or whatever else the young producer looking to climb up the network corporate chart comes up with.

There’s so many daily shows “discussing issues” it’s absurd. One show on ESPN literally has a host that gives points for good comments, and the commentater with the lowest total is eliminated as the show goes on. If that’s not a sign that we’ve crossed a line somewhere, we’re just not getting one.

As I pedaled, I wished I was trapsing through some lost trail out in the woods somewhere hearing nothing but my own breathing, tires crunching the dirt, and maybe a bird or two that skipped the flight south after hearing predictions about our mild winter. For years now I’ve had this idea of living in a log cabin somewhere, away from the world where my true genius as a writer could escape. Not exactly original, I know, and, being a guy that gets around the outside world in a motorized chair, not real feasible either. But lately this feeling of being overloaded by opinions has me wanting to pull the plug on the information highway.

For now, I don’t have any spiffy ending for this post. But, if you’re not too busy listening to someone you never heard of before tell you why your life isn’t all it should be, feel free to offer your suggestions.

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