Navigating Authenticity in a World of Information Overload

Martha Wyatt-Luth ’25

Opinions Editor

Photo by ThisIsEngineering on Pexels.com

It’s no surprise over 30 percent of adults in the US experience anxiety when you take into account that the average person processes 74 GB of information each day. To put this into perspective, imagine watching 18 two-hour movies. Every. Single. Day. I mean, I do love a good Netflix binge night and I did watch both seasons of Euphoria within 72 hours, but I do not think I could watch that many movies every day. 

When you consider the integration of social media in the last two decades, the amount of information processed on a daily basis is unprecedented. And, it is “often at a rate far higher than [the] cognitive abilities to process the information” according to Psychologist Manuel Rodriguez in a 2014 study. In this study, it was discovered that “the rate at which users receive information impacts their processing behavior, including how they prioritize information from different sources, how much information they process, and how quickly they process information.” Furthermore, when there is an overwhelming amount of information to process, the individual reaches an “information overload” that can cause them to shut down all information outlets, experience anxiety, inhibit their cognitive abilities, and more. 

When I look back at my own childhood, technology was already omnipresent. My parents had Blackberries and we had several computers placed around the house. Of course, life seemed simpler back then because it always seems that way in retrospect. But, it could be for a number of variables. Sure I was younger, had less responsibilities, and understood less about the world, but I think another variable was no doubt a smaller exposure to technology, and by extension, social media. I had to do my homework with a pencil, arranged playdates through my mom, and received birthday invitations in the mail. I got to have my 30 minutes of TV time after school and that was it. Life was simple. I didn’t worry about what my friends were up to every second of the day. We would hangout, or if we didn’t, we would see each other the next day. What in the world happened?

In about the fourth grade, everything changed. We all got Instagram and iPhones with iMessage and that changed the game. People would fret over who got to be in the group chats, who was added as best friends in Instagram bios, who would be tagged in photos, etc. Since then, I don’t think there has ever been a time that social media has not been on my mind. It’s everywhere. It’s in everything. Even businesses have had to adapt to the changing times to stay relevant. 

As a first year, soon-to-be sophomore, I’ve experienced a shift in social media content in the last year from high school to college social life. And let me just say, boy is social media not real. It’s actually really crazy. Not in a “wow, college life is crazy” kind of way — because it feels like just a continuation of high school half the time — but in a, “wow, it’s crazy how distorted reality can be” kind of way. I’ll see people post that they had a good time at a darty, but two hours earlier, I had seen them miserable just standing in the lot doing nothing. Like, seriously, what? And I’m even mad at LinkedIn. People post the amazing internship or job they secured, but no one knows how much time went into getting that with countless interviews, extracurricular programs, and maybe even a few rejections. It makes it seem like everyone is getting their dream jobs except you. 

But it’s not their fault. Posting that you had fun doing a group activity or that you got a post-grad job often feels like an obligation. Conformity is in our human nature; I’m not sure if this will ever change, at least not in our lifetimes. This is certainly not a plea to leave social media, because at this point it’s becoming most of our communication. But, we do have to become aware of its implications and find ways to not let it completely influence our decisions.

Going into freshman year, I thought I would be an economics major, pursue investment banking internships, and you probably know the rest. But then, I joined the Finance Club, took a Finance Excel Lab, and even met with current analysts at a few companies. I quickly realized that boy do I not want to do this. It wasn’t the fact that I hated the work — that seemed fine, it seemed like doing homework. But then I compared it to my growing interest in psychology where I would assist in research, work in labs, write up publications, and that didn’t feel like homework. It felt like a vocation. In the truest sense of the world, it felt like a calling. 

In a pragmatic sense, I knew that if I spent my time doing this, and abruptly died in a car crash, I wouldn’t have regretted my choice. But, I knew that if I spent my time managing portfolios and working on excel spreadsheets day in and day out, I knew I would most definitely regret my decision. That’s pretty much how I decide most things in an intuitive way. When you make yourself consider life as being very short, you automatically realize what your priorities are. 

We spend our lives methodically planning for what is next. Up until now, we college students have literally spent our lives working towards the next thing. But we need to care about what is right in front of us. I want to spend more time with my family. I want to ride horses more, and meet new people. I want to improve my writing and take time to read more. These are all things I took less than ten seconds to write. It’s all a gut feeling. 

If you think about it, pursuing what is most authentic to you is not just a service to yourself, but a service to the world. If we all pursue occupations that aren’t working towards our strengths, we will all be mediocre instead of each reaching our full potential in different ways. There are no two “you’s” in the world, make that known. 

It’s been an amazing year writing for The Spire a passion I plan to continue through my time on the Hill. Thank you for being a continued reader!

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