The average American spends 7 hours and 4 minutes looking at a screen each day. That number is up by about fifty minutes per day since 2013. 1
Americans currently average 6.8 hours of sleep per night, a decrease of more than an hour nightly since 1942.2
With our daily screen time outpacing our nightly rest (at a rate that is continuing to skyrocket), it’s no wonder that many of us are suffocating beneath the weight of information overload. Our brains were simply not designed for this new digital age. To quote Harvard Professor Edward O. Wilson, “The real problem of humanity is the following. We have paleolithic emotions, medieval institutions, and God-like technology.” To put an even finer point on the crisis we are facing, I’ll note that Wilson penned those words in 2009—practically the Stone Age compared with 2023’s even higher levels of technological advancement.
Lifehack founder Leon Ho writes, “The digital era has given birth to a slew of inventions that have transformed the way people interact, study, and work. The internet, social media, and mobile devices have made rapid access to a wealth of information possible, allowing us to be more connected, informed, and empowered than ever before.”
Information in itself can be a very good thing. But as anyone who has overeaten at the all-you-can-eat dessert bar knows, there is such a phenomenon as too much of a good thing. I think it’s safe to say that our levels of information intake have moved well beyond the threshold of comfortable consumption. We have reached crisis-level overload.
Information overload, or “infobesity,” results when “a person is bombarded with information that surpasses their ability to filter, interpret, and retain it.”3 Symptoms of information overload include (but are not limited to): difficulty focusing; inability to comprehend and retain information; a decline in decision-making capabilities; and general feelings of mental and emotional fatigue.
Of the many side effects of infobesity, the most dangerous of all is one not often cited by scientists or medical experts. It’s a spiritual consequence that doesn’t need a medical diagnosis to be true: when we are experiencing an overload of information, we have saturated the God-given space intended to be occupied by our Creator.
I recently heard a sermon on the beatitudes, specifically Matthew 5:6, which states, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” The pastor reminded his congregation that no matter how hungry we are for God’s righteousness, God cannot fill what is already full. Whether we are filled up with sin, or with busyness, or with too much information—God cannot pour out the blessing of righteousness into a saturated soul. In other words, information overload is a massive stumbling block on the path to a flourishing relationship with the Lord.
It’s common for parents to tell our children they need to eat their vegetables (i.e., the healthy food) before they can have dessert (which tastes good but holds little nutritional value). In our relationship with God, it can be tempting to think of time spent with Him as the vegetable portion of our day: it’s good for us, but not exactly pleasurable. This is a warped understanding of the Lord’s character and His role in our lives. Feasting on God’s Word and spending time in His presence isn’t just healthy; it is the epitome of enjoyment. Our Lord is the initiator of everything that is good and beautiful and wondrous. He is great and worthy of praise. And He desires to be our vegetables, our appetizer, our main course, our dessert, and even our after-dinner mint. The satisfaction He brings is not fleeting or superficial, and in Him there is NO such thing as overload, for His yoke is easy and His burden is light.
I’ll be spending the remainder of the year memorizing Psalm 96, a hymn of worship and praise. As I treasure these verses in my heart, they will be a daily reminder to fill up daily on God. To set aside the devices and distractions so that I can turn my attention to praising Him. To show gratitude for His many blessings and proclaim His goodness and greatness. To praise the One who waits patiently for me to set down the overload of information in favor of pursuing Him.