Due to the novelty of social media technologies, and our experiences using them, research is only beginning to unveil how the hours dedicated to online interactions are impacting human behaviour. As noted by the eminent scholar Hebert Simon, a wealth of information means a dearth of something else.  That ‘something else’ is the ability to absorb information, also known as information overload.  Indeed, a recent survey from Microsoft shows that 55% of UK office workers suffer from information overload and have endured anxiety as a result of the deluge of content they are exposed to through new communication platforms. Under the constant barrage of emails, tweets, text messages, RSS feeds, and Facebook updates, some workers flourish, but most are overwhelmed.  Information overload is a substantial problem for society as it leads to stress, low morale, poor decision-making, and decreased productivity. We need to learn how to evolve and adapt so that sense can drawn from the massive amounts of data we are currently subjected to, and likely to be subjected to in the future.

This project will investigate how the use of enterprise social media (ESM) relates to the cause and consequences of information overload in the workplace. ESM platforms such as Jive, Chatter, and Yammer, are akin to the public Facebook but are employed for internal communication and social interaction within the enterprise.  Concluding that the cause of information overload is solely too much information is crude. Rather, it is a person’s innate capabilities that really determine if one wades in the digital ocean or drowns underneath.  Evidence from the field of neuroscience supports this view.  Using MRI scans, Jaeggi and colleagues discovered that lower performers activate many cortical areas when exposed to excessive information loads.  In contrast, high performers only call on a specific portion of their brain.

So we know that individual skills and aptitudes are pivotal to eschew information overload.  To the best of our knowledge, no studies exist which investigate the capabilities needed by the modern worker to avoid suffering information overload.  If left under researched, the problems associated with our hyper-connected society will only exacerbate.

Funded by

Funded under the Irish Research Council’s New Horizons research project scheme

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