Was John a victim of infoxication? He had been checking his cell phone for more than 8 hours, which began with a “meme” ended in a conspiracy theory that postulates the relationship between the virus and the New World Order. In just a few hours, John went from anger to anguish to end with paralysis – a true feeling of not knowing what to do after receiving an overwhelming amount of information – and he just stood there, with his eyes on his cell phone but with his sight a little further. He had been infected without even realizing it.
Analogy of contagion
In a very simple version, once the SARS-Cov-2 virus enters the body, it spreads everywhere, particularly in the lungs. The immune system is the one in charge of alleviating or complicating things once the individual has been infected. As with the COVID-19 disease, it is with the infodemic. Once the digital virus (infoxication) enters the mind, it spreads through all neurons, alters the individual, their behavior and psyche, it corresponds to reason and critical judgment, then, to perform the role of the immune system against this infection.
In current times this takes on special importance, an example of the difference between the effect of COVID-19 and the SARS pandemic in 2002 is its effect on collective emotions. The records of the predecessor were there for your consultation: the percentage of fatality, contagion, outbreaks, etc. The big difference is that nobody remembers them because they did not exist or there was not much access to instant messaging services, cell phones with a decent camera, or social networks through which to share the data immediately and to everyone.
Spreading the toxin
Infoxication is a term that has been conceptualized for more than 20 years by the brilliant Alfons Cornella, who in 1996 defined it as a saturation and overexposure to information. At that time, he considered various elements of diffusion but highlighted some sources such as advertising and the mass media.
At that time we were limited to what was shown in the news, to what a certain number of people decided to share but no less contaminated for that, and then … the Internet coalition arrived aggravating this condition. Armies of search engines and sites mercilessly bombarding data. References and news from everywhere, little by little they were gaining ground and familiarity, patiently waiting for social networks to arrive to give the coup de grace publishing the opinions of anyone as irrefutable truth.
With the arrival of these technologies, the level of exposure to data and the form of use by Internet users rose. According to the Digital In 2019 study prepared by We are Social and Hootsuite “The average time that a user is connected to social networks (in a day) is 2 hours 16 minutes”, it would be necessary to add the visits to search engines and sites of their choice.
Imagine now that we seek to be informed of the fashionable topic (in this case COVID-19, in just a moment we have an almost infinite amount of data, but this is when it gets interesting, Reuters Institute explains in its report about the infodemic During the pandemic, that 59% of false information is “reconfigured”, this means that it contains true data but is modified by adding misleading content or derived from a false context. It also states that 38% of this content is “fabricated”, in other words, made up and the remaining percentage is due to satires, parodies and memes.
Are we now clear on how extremely dangerous the situation is? Infodemic and infoxication working hand by hand in perfect symbiosis to infect a user who spends considerable time on the Internet, devours information but is not able to understand it.
- Identify the symptoms: If you feel overwhelmed by the information you receive on a daily basis, you become paralyzed at some point in your day or you simply don’t know what to do with the data that has come to you, you are infected and the first step is to recognize it.
- Sort the information: Group the information by categories and lists, so it will be easier to consult. You can create these lists on Twitter or use social media readers like Feedly.
- Modify your habits: Don’t consume information all the time. Regardless of the topic you need to research, block a space in your agenda to search, research and read, but most importantly, assign a maximum time for information consumption, otherwise, you would be wasting your most important resource, which is time.
- Quality information: The entrepreneurial geek vlogger, innovation lover, enlightened by Google, is not the same as the reporter who has 25 years of experience. Each medium, person and source of information has its own interests. Question each one and decide.
The internet, social networks and connectivity will continue to grow, innovate and surprise us more every day and consequently, information will grow exponentially. The key point is to put a brake on it, but not on the data, but on the exposure and the amount of time we spend in front of the computer.
We must develop critical judgment and discernment so as not to get sick. We must use limits and organizational capacity as a vaccine and especially assume our own responsibility when consuming information, but also when sharing it.