What was once called the “Information Superhighway” has become “Information Wasteland”. We’re now experiencing severe information overload to a point where the information itself ceases to be beneficial and becomes the source of confusion for many people. Anything about everything is supported or opposed mostly without clear authoritative source and is accessible to everybody who are once again left to their own devices to decide what to accept or reject. So in effect, we’re no better now than 30 or 40 years ago when we didn’t have easy access to a wealth of information about anything.
The confusion arising from too much information affects various facets of our lives. Let’s narrow down to one specific area. Take shopping for instance.
Say, you’re shopping for a new car, camera, or a television. With the wealth of information and product reviews at your fingertips, you’d think that you can now become a smarter, well informed and better prepared consumer who can make wise decisions. But are you?
For most consumers, especially those who are internet savvy, the buying process has become more agonizing and time consuming than ever before. There always is more information out there about a given product than one can possibly consume. Chances are, deeper research generally leads to excessive information that is mostly irrelevant to your buying decision. And what about the consumer reviews? How many times have you lost confidence in a particular product you had in mind because of few bad reviews? How many nights did you stay up reading reviews about a digital camera you were about to buy? Think about the time spent even on trivial purchases on eBay. Was it all worth it?
Of course, learning about a product before buying is always a better idea than not knowing anything at all. Having said that, product info or reviews by experts – when consumed with discretion – can be helpful. However, consumer reviews should be taken with even greater discretion. They can be used as a guide but they don’t guarantee a wise purchase any more than a coin toss especially when there is no practical way to verify if the claims are true or fake.
So what happens in the end? Some stay loyal to their old brand regardless of what they’ve read, others try something new. Some listen to their buddies, others listen to strangers. Some end up satisfied and some don’t. Well, aren’t those the odds that we had to deal with all along for generations? Looks like nothing has changed. These days, we just end up spending more time doing the same things.