What is an information overload

Information overload (also Information overload, engl. information overload or information flood) describes a person's condition of having “too much” information on a topic to be able to make a decision.

The English name Information overload was written in 1970 by Alvin Toffler in his book Future Shock embossed.

The term is commonly used in connection with various forms of network-based communication such as

  • e-mail
  • Social media: blogs and microblogs (e.g. Twitter), content communities (e.g. YouTube), social networks (e.g. Facebook), MMORPGs (e.g. World of Warcraft), and social virtual worlds ( e.g. Second Life)

In the case of emails, information is used in the sense of a push-Communication sent to recipients, with messages as Carbon copy can be sent to many recipients at the same time. This so-called posting (comparable to a 'black board, which also makes information partially public) increases the total number of messages considerably. Large amounts (“flood”) of old data, newly added data, contradictions in existing data and a low signal-to-noise ratio, i.e. high noise (in the figurative sense), make it difficult to filter information (= important from Separating the unimportant and the interesting from the uninteresting). Ignorance of methods of comparing and processing information can increase this effect.

Online communities

The ability to process information, which is limited depending on the individual, restricts online communities in their activity. As the number of contributions increases, community members react by ignoring information, reducing their contributions or leaving the community entirely; In those with a high growth in members, increasing emigration and falling contributions from previous members were observed, which, in addition to the so-called social idleness, is ascribed to the information overload as a counterpart to the network effect.

The effectiveness of an information overload depends heavily on the software in question. In communities where asynchronous communication predominates, for example, it is viewed as lower than in those with synchronous communication.[1][2]


“The flood of information generated by modern technologies threatens to let the addressees sink into passivity. Seely Brown makes a helpful distinction here between information and communication. An overabundance of information is not a minor problem. Large amounts of raw data constitute a political fact. The growing amounts of data lead to a centralization of control. In communication, on the other hand, the amount of information is reduced by the interaction of people and their interpretations. Editing and omitting are procedures that cause communication to be decentralized. "

- Richard Sennett[3]

See also

  • Information explosion
  • Information literacy
  • Island knowledge
  • Information economy
  • Lost in hyperspace
  • Simple living
  • Information lifecycle management


  1. ↑ Sandra Schaffert, Diana Wieden-Bishop: Successful development of online communities. Concepts, scenarios and recommendations for action. Salzburg Research Forschungsgesellschaft, Saltzburg 2009, ISBN 978-3-902448-13-2, p. 38. Available as a preview at Google books, last checked on April 14, 2011
  2. ↑ Timo Beck: Web 2.0: User-Generated Contend in Online Communities. A theoretical and empirical investigation of its determinations. Diplomica Verlag, Hamburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-8366-5492-0, pp. 24-27. Available as a preview on Google books, last checked on April 14, 2011
  3. ↑ Richard Sennett: The culture of the new capitalism. Berlin Verlag, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-8270-0600-7, p. 136.

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