Overwhelmed by Online Reading

I can’t be the only one this happens to. I come home from work in the afternoon and one of the first things I do is check facebook. (There might be adorable pictures of my year-old niece, who I haven’t seen in 11 days and won’t see for 30 more. Not that I keep track.) And as I scroll down, I see all the articles that friends have linked, and they look pretty interesting, so I click through to them. I’ll read that later, I think. I go back to facebook and repeat. This pile of windows accumulates in my browser, until there are so many that I can’t even see the icon that goes with each one.

All of that reading I have just assigned myself is in addition to the several blogs that I read just to know what’s going on in the world. The sheer volume of online reading that I feel I have to do just to keep up and be aware and able to converse intelligently about events and issues is absolutely overwhelming. When a congressman says something idiotic about rape, I want to watch all the drama go down as commentators tear him apart. I want to read the smart analyses of the latest gaffe-that’s-really-not-a-gaffe on the campaign trail. I want to hear about sexist new products and songs, about science and psuedoscience, about books, movies, and TV. Maybe a big part of the problem is that I’m interested in too many things.

The articles and links accumulate from day to day and I fall farther and farther behind, and, this sounds odd to say, but it stresses me out! This has happened purely because of choices I have made myself, with no outside influence or pressure. I have done this to myself; I take sole responsibility. I own the fact that it is ridiculous for me to add stress to my life in this way. But I hate the idea of missing anything. I can’t just forget or ignore an article, because what if it’s amazing? What if I don’t find out about the latest racist or anti-science outrage that Tennesseans have committed? What if I never learn about this new online education program and what this smart person thinks of it? I wouldn’t be clicking through if I weren’t interested, if I didn’t think that this knowledge could add something to my life in some way.

Maybe that attitude of being interested in everything, of pursuing knowledge for its own sake indiscriminately, is a fruit of my liberal arts education going to seed. I still believe that there’s no such thing as useless knowledge, and I’m glad I do. But that belief doesn’t exactly help me to manage my time when virtually infinite knowledge is at my fingertips all day and smart friends are recommending that I sample particular bite-size pieces of it.

A technical solution would be nice. Something that would work exactly like clicking to open a new browser window, except it would just store the link instead of cluttering my workspace. Something that would let me read every blog I follow in order, even if I fall 2 weeks behind, without scrolling endlessly to find where I left off. I’m sure the technology exists to create my dream widget. I tried RSS feeds and could not handle them. I tried to subscribe to just a couple authors on some of the bigger blogs with multiple authors, and it wouldn’t let me. I had to take them all or nothing. I messed with it for a couple days and gave up, resigned myself again to my current method of organization: nearly infinite browser windows.

This is definitely a First World Problem, I know. My life is so hard with my high-speed internet and my free time and my advanced reading skills. I should just accept that not everything online is worth reading and find a real issue to deal with.

And yet! The scandals! The laughs! The advice! The truth!

Does anyone have any solutions to this problem? How have you dealt with the impossible abundance of online reading?

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One thought on “Overwhelmed by Online Reading

  1. Your blog inspired me to start one of my own. I tried to do it last year, but never kept up with it. I think I’m more motivated now. It’s mainly going to be documenting Emmalynn’s life (go figure).

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