Prior to 2023, it was common for people to refer to the current time as the over-information age. This was prior to when ChatGPT came out, and a new era in AI content creation unfolded.
Now, writers and non-writers can produce HBR-level articles with just a click of a button, at any conceivable topic.
This is information overload at a whole other level, because there is no longer any barrier for content creation.
While I was doing research around the topic of this article, information overload, I ran into an HBR article on the subject, published before generative AI became a thing.
The article was written by an award-winning author who published a book on a similar topic to information overload.
In the article, the author gives some practical advice about managing the influx of information at work:
“When you notice information overload (a headache, fatigue, frustration, mood swing), don’t ignore it and don’t panic […] Say to yourself, “I’m in a new job and there is plenty to learn here. It’s okay to feel this way.”
Reading this article, I see why I constantly get the feeling of information overload. Most of what you read sucks.
When you read something that you can’t relate to, you feel over-information.
Even if the author’s intention is genuine, the article would still most likely not be helpful for the reader. It is usually generic and unrelatable.
It is not differentiated enough from the cookie-cutter kind of advice you get from AI tools.
For writers, dealing with information overload is more important than for other professionals. It’s like nutrition. We need to read quality content that relates to our work, process it, and help it feed our own writing.
Preventing writer information overload
I won’t be sharing a list of tips. Maybe it’s high time we ditch the “7 ways to quit smoking” type of content.
What I will do is offer a different paradigm for reading.
Most writers work like this:
- They have a certain topic they need to write about. It really doesn’t matter what kind of writers they are. Journalists get their topic from the editor-in-chief. Content writers might get it from their SEO expert. It’s always a specific topic that they need to investigate.
- They research the topic. In the olden days, they would go to libraries and read old newspaper clips (at least that’s what you see them doing in movies). Nowadays, they Google their topic and see what comes up. If they are the 1% of writers, they find subject matter experts and interview them.
- They validate the content. They skim it, see if it is well written. Notice if it’s better than what ChatGPT outputs. Examine whether it links to valid sources and so on.
- They then validate the person who wrote the content. They see who wrote every article they find, what are their credentials.
- Finally, they decide to use the article as one of their sources.
This process, however commonly used, doesn’t work. It leaves you with content that will always be mediocre. That won’t be useful. The reason is that it is easy to manipulate this process. All you need to have is an SEO expert who knows how to work with Google. This is how the SEO industry evolved.
So, how can we make a better process? We have to completely overhaul how we research content. In fact, we have to basically stop researching topics.
Instead, we need to follow creators that we have validated ourselves, who write or create content around topics similar to ours.
This will cause our writing to be a conversation, instead of a fragmented process.