By Christine Anne George
Once upon a time, back in library school, I decided that I needed to stay better informed so I started using Google Reader, a blog aggregator. I used it to follow a handful of law librarian and legal blogs. I’d log in, skim through the titles of the various posts, read a few posts, and feel a sense of accomplishment for staying current. Then I started to get involved in advocacy with an archives organization. I added a few more blogs. Then came the thesis which meant including more. Then I thought that the content was too heavy, so I put in some entertainment blogs. Then I got a job and needed to track faculty scholarship and was constantly looking for content for the library’s social media, so it was blogs on blogs on blogs. Then I found out that Google decided to break my heart and I had to find a new aggregator.
Ultimately I went with Feedly (reluctantly) and decided that I would do a bit of a culling because the number of blogs/news outlets I was following was getting a bit unwieldy. Only…I still need to keep up with what’s going on in law librarianship (law and generally), archives, law, and my research interest formerly known as my thesis topic. And, as you may have realized from previous posts, I’m a bit of a pop culture junkie, which meant there was no way I was giving those feeds up. I managed to cut a handful of blogs from my list, but most of those were defunct, so they didn’t really count.
Going through my Feedly became a chore. If I wasn’t good about keeping up with it, I would have tens of thousands of posts waiting for me. My quixotic dream of inbox zero got transferred to my Feedly. Sometimes I had to cheat and use the option to clear out anything older than a day just to make it somewhat manageable. It’s taken a few years for me to reach this point, but now I’ve come to terms and can say it: My Feedly is out of control. There’s too much information to compute. What’s worse is that it’s not even the only resource I use to keep up with what’s going on. I have my various lists on Twitter and daily emails like The Skimm and KnowItAALL, as well as alerts set up on a variety of platforms. My Facebook and Instagram, which I have tried to keep personal, have become less about cute babies and snarky memes and more about politics and news. Basically, any time I log in for computer or phone-screen time, I’m awash in news, news, and more news which now I’m on red alert while reading because some of it will be fake news. (If that term is now a trigger for you, please try my new coping mechanism which is to replace the two words with spin, which makes me think of the Spin Doctors, which gets Two Princes stuck in my head and makes me smile.) Now when it comes to keeping current, Hyperbole and a Half speaks to my soul—read all the news?
Though my information overload problem predates the election, it appears that there are plenty of people who are having their own problems with news consumption as of late. (Even the political cartoonists are commenting on the difficulty of news consumption.) With the knowledge that our media is biased and that we are called to be critical consumers of the news, how’s a law librarian supposed to deal? I’ve heard of friends who are cutting back on social media and unplugging a few hours before bed, but neither addresses the problem of just trying to keep up. It’s enough to make you throw your hands up and say, “Listen, Ethel, I think we’re fighting a losing game.” It’s impossible for one person to know everything, but where do you draw the line? Once you find a few trusted news sources and commentators? When you’ve reached the point of saturation? Or do you just trying to grab every news tidbit from the assembly line? How do you cope? Seriously inquiring…you know, for a friend.