What is “information pollution”? At the beginning this phrase was totally unknown to me. The first time I ever came across such a phrase was in the hallways of my school when I saw an advertisement about an essay competition. Being a very ambitious and curious person I was attracted not only by the idea of a competition but also by this two mysterious words. Immediately, I started collecting as much information as it was possible. The more I learned about the information pollution the more I felt bad about being so uninformed about such an important topic.
The information pollution is a phenomenon which can also be considered as the adverse of the information revolution. It is the irrelevant, useless, low-value information that becomes an obstacle not only to people but also to business and society in general.
Information pollution is a big problem, even though it may be quite abstract. It is not like air or water pollution, whose effects can be very clear. People cannot touch, smell or visualize the effects of information pollution. However, it does not mean that it’s effects are only a few.
Firstly, it affects individuals. We are all familiar to the quote: “Information is power!”. The more information we have the better it is, because it helps you to deal with different problems that may arise in your life. But, in my opinion, “Knowledge is power!”, is a more accurate quote.
To a lot of people the terms “information” and “knowledge” are very similar. And that is their mistake. Knowledge is the processed information by a humans brain, which is later used for several purposes. In other words, our brain takes in a lot of information and then organizes it in order to be easier for us to use in our everyday life. But, according to recent studies, the human brain is capable of collecting only a certain amount of information before it starts to become disoriented. Nowadays we are offered free access to an endless amount of information. Though this is usually seen as a step forward for mankind it is not always a good thing. The excess of information can lead to decision paralysis, where the person can no longer separate valuable from waste information. This causes people to make slower and inadequate decisions. Not to mention the stress and anxiety they may go through.
In addition information pollution can bring down businesses. Decision making is crucial to the business world. Therefore the employees in a business face a lot of imprecise and unnecessary information and this may lead to stress and bad decisions. But instant messaging and spam emailing are also forms of information pollution which affect the employees of a business. For instance, the sound or even the vibration that announces the arrival of a message or email can be really distracting.
Information pollution has an effect in education, too. In schools we give kids a lot of information, a great quantity of which is not always necessary. We force them to memorize tones of information instead of trying to teach them the most important points of the lesson. According to recent studies most of the students find it distracting and stressful when they have a lot of inessential information in their textbooks. Also students are very dependent on internet to help them get information and usually do their homework. This has its disadvantages because information in the internet in most cases is polluted. Especially in internet it is hard to find the polluted sites.
One argument against information pollution is also that children of very young ages are provided with a lot of information that is inappropriate for them. The cases where the kids have had to deal with “wrong” sites are not a few. There exist many occasions where the children search in the internet for something that has to do with their homework but they also face improper sites, one example of which are porn sites. I believe that this is not only information pollution but also some kind of child abuse. If we look at this situation closely, we can see that a child has just came across a new thing to him. Since the nature of children itself is interested in learning new things they will find themselves in a quite bizarre situation where they will have to make a choice. They will have to chose whether they should not get informed at all or get informed with a polluted information. We can all agree that porn or erotic sites are not the right information for such young ages. However they have still contaminated the internet worldwide.
Another form of information pollution are also the advertisements. You can find them literally anywhere. You can find them when you open your TV, when you walk on the street, all over the internet and some companies have even reached the point where they call you to advertise their products. It can all get extremely annoying, especially when most of the things they say are not helpful at all. Have you ever seen an advertisement about a product you wanted to buy but it hasn’t really helped you?! Actually it has made you more confused about it and you started to question yourself whether you wanted to buy it or not in the first place. Most of the advertisements give unnecessary and unclear information about their product. And this, in most cases, puts the clients off.
One more disadvantage of information pollution is that it is widespread. That means that once the polluted information is out and spreads it is very hard to get rid of it. The internet is a very useful “tool” to help us reach information easily but the problem arises when this information is not correct. Just imagine a spider web that has been wrapped around the whole world. It is very hard to get untangled from it especially when it is becoming more and more dense at such a fast peace.
In addition, information pollution has an almost invisible cost. It may actually be really hard to understand but for every small letter we type on our computers we use a minute amount of power. It is so small that it is almost unnoticeable but if we consider the huge number of people that type a little character every second that passes, it all adds up to a big energy waste. This waste of energy or power slowly exhausts world resources. So we can easily say that information pollution is as dangerous to our world as any other environmental pollution is.
Information pollution is encouraged by law. That is because the storage of the pollutant is required by the law. Furthermore it’s elimination is illegal. This is because of various reasons. For example lawyers want data as potential evidence. Meanwhile it may help the police to search for clues and evidence in case of crimes. However it does not help in solving the problem of the information contamination with useless and low-value information.
We can all agree that information pollution is a problem that we face in our everyday life. But as every problem it must have a solution.
To begin with we should increase the awareness. This is the first and most difficult step since most people have never even heard the term “information pollution” in their life. If you search for information pollution on Google the results will be very few compared to the other types of pollution you may search for. We should educate people that information pollution is not different than any other environmental problem. We all know that deforestation is a big problem for the environment but why cannot people understand that information pollution is as hazardous as deforestation. Once we make people understand the effects of information pollution in our world we will increase the awareness and we will be one step closer to solving this problem.
Another possible solution could be to encourage new technologies to delete not valuable and junk information. Except for the Spam Filters no other delete technology has ever been invented. But spam emails are not the only information pollution form that exists. We should find or create any decision support system that may help the prioritization of the information that is in the internet. Just like decision support systems support business and other decision making activities it may help us to clean the information from all the polluted forms it may contain.
To sum it all up, I believe that information pollution or “ Infollution” as some may call it is a really important topic. It is a real problem in today’s world that has many effects on most fields of life. It’s effects start from minor ones and increase scale by scale to destructive levels. But, even though it is such a big problem, it gets so little attention by people all around the world. In my opinion we should all focus more on the internet pollution and try to make it disappear. It may be invisible to the eyes of most people but all of its’ consequences can add up really quickly.