What is Information Fatigue Syndrome? How does it affect you?

Information fatigue syndrome – also known as Information overload, intoxication is a term coined by Georg Simmel (1858-1918), a social scientist who postulated that the overload of sensations in the modern world caused increasingly jaded and insensitive people incapable of logically reacting to situations.

  • Historically, around 1st century BC, the abundance of books was considered a distraction by ancient Romans.

  • In the 1400s, after the invention of the printing press, the abundance of information due to accelerated printing was thought to be distracting.

  • The term was reinvented by Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock in 1970 and became popular once again.

  • It now refers to the fatigue caused by the progressively connected Digital Information Age we live in. In this electronic age with all devices accessible to the internet, the drawbacks are as many as the benefits.

  • Social media is the major culprit behind this modern malady and major contributors are email, instant messages, tweets, Facebook notifications, Whatsapp messages and notifications from other smartphone apps.


  • The symptoms of self-diagnosis include poor concentration, short-term memory failure, overly multi-tasking resulting in incomplete tasks, over-stimulation causing headaches and nausea, compulsive need to be connected to the internet and traditional stress responses.

How to Overcome Information Fatigue Syndrome

Clay Shirky said, “It is not information overload, it is filter failure”. Proactive steps that have to taken to avoid this include

  • Shutting down all devices for a set period of time a day and focusing on real human interactions

  • Prioritizing tasks and focusing on finishing one at a time and trying to avoid doing more than one or two tasks at a time.

  • Focusing on the necessary research and not getting distracted by tantalizing clickbait titles.

  • It is also important to establish stringent work-home balance by not checking emails after office hours and making sure that an electronic device (phone or tablet) is the not the last thing before bed and first thing after waking up.

Clay Johnson came up with an interesting theory in his book “The Information Diet” where he talks about the limited consumption of junk information for a healthier, wiser mind.