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Chronic Information Overload: Why Consumers Can’t Concentrate

Chronic Information Overload: Why Consumers Can’t Concentrate

There is a new virus plaguing the global population. It symptoms include, but are not limited to, inability to concentrate, general fatigue, irritability towards advertisements, as well as difficulty processing new information. This new disease is called Information Overload.

What happens when you wake up in the morning? Do you check twitter for important global updates or trending news? Do you scroll through aesthetically pleasing Instagram pages to get inspiration? Do you turn on the TV to watch that early morning celebrity appearance? Do you grab a newspaper for the commute? I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that you do several of the activities listed above. And, sadly, I must deliver some upsetting news. You, too, have been infected with Information Overload.

Marketing isn’t what it used to be. It’s getting harder and harder to reach everyday people. As the general public consume more and more media and information, communicating with the masses is becoming increasingly challenging—the challenge being that with so much information already out in the world, your message has a higher chance of simply become more static noise that does not actually grab its intended audience and deliver its intended message.

As brand differentiation becomes harder, so too do marketing strategies. Companies are having to reevaluate their communication techniques. Companies must anticipate the fact that they are not in control of what the audience sees. The consumer himself is in control of the information he select and reads—and with so many options, the chances that this consumer will read your message on his own free will is not very likely. This isn’t just a challenge for corporate businesses. Schools and universities are also worried about the attention span of their students.

Not only does every student have a phone, but now the vast majority of students also have laptops. And while the use of these devices are advantageous with regard to research, hands-on learning, recording lectures, and taking notes efficiently, there are many disadvantages to them as well. Consumers, whether they be of consumer products or of education, are constantly communicating with others. This gives us a more extensive social life, but it can also distract us from what we really need to do. Social media apps provide a never-ending story of what we and our friends do and we don’t want to miss out on anything. Have you heard of FOMO? It stands for Fear of Missing Out. Fun Fact: Individuals who suffer from the condition described above as Information Overload also tend to suffer from FOMO. This global compulsion to stay connected to our social networks has caused widespread lack of concentration.

Gül Akcaova, 23, a student at the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht, the Netherlands, came up with a solution for this widespread compulsion to consume information during inappropriate times. According to Akcaova, notifications cause a ‘trigger’ in the mind of students. When they hear or feel such a notification, such as a ‘ding’ or a vibration, they cannot focus on their work until they check their notification. And, as we all know, checking a notification, more time than not, leads to a much longer detour from our work. Gül Akcaova is so passionate about the ways in which the global community is chronically distracted that she actually is creating an app to attempt to solve this global crisis.

Her app, Sidekick Mattie, utilizes the so-called Pomodoro-technique, which gives the students the ability to alternate a 25 minute study period with a 5 minute break in which the individual’s notifications will appear and the student will have temporary access to social media. Akcaova, along with a handful of other students, created Sidekick Mattie, an app that not only keeps track of your social media use, but also controls it. It’s like putting a time lock on your mobile phone and laptop. This could be a lifesaver for students that are easily distracted.

Company incubator StudentsInc found the pitch for this app compelling enough to invest in further developing it. Other universities in the Netherlands have shown interest in this student app as well. In September, the minds behind the app will start with a pilot. The app will be personalized for every education institution. Each institution will decide which social media platforms and which websites will be allowed. The app can also provide insight in the learning process of students. At the moment, Mattie is only available for Android. An iOS version will follow in the near future. Sevendots thinks that Mattie might just be one of the first of many effective antidotes to the global information overload crisis. What do you think?