Are we drowning in a virtual sea of information?

Last week I had the privilege of attending the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) National Conference in beautiful Vancouver, BC. I participated in many interesting workshops and had the pleasure of listening to several exhilarating speeches presented by communications experts from all over North America.

One of the speakers who made an impression on me is Canada’s own David Suzuki, who many of us know through CBC’s The Nature of Things.

Suzuki grabbed the attention of the room filled with communications professionals as he spoke passionately about the reality that environmental benefits come second to economic benefits. He claimed that the economic system doesn’t value the benefits of the ecosystem and urged the audience to put the eco back in economics. He encouraged us to rethink the important role that the ecosystem plays in our lives as the source of everything that matters.

Suzuki said the failure of our economy is that forests are not considered valuable even though they provide the environment for humans. One idea that occurred to me is that if forests are no longer considered valuable, then that means that paper would also be considered less valuable – as most paper comes from trees. The more I think about this notion, the more I agree with Suzuki that the ecosystem has become secondary to the economy. With the emergence and boom of information that has been transferred from paper to computers and then to the Internet, paper has become less common in our day-to-day use. From emails to text messaging to websites, I find that most of the information that I am exposed to daily is online.

According to www.buzzle.com, information is the biggest advantage the Internet is offering. The website claims “there is a huge amount of information available on the internet for just about every subject known to man, ranging from government law and services, trade fairs and conferences, market information, new ideas and technical support, the list is endless.”

I was intrigued by one major point that Suzuki made during his presentation: we currently have access to too much information. He claimed that instead of finding new information, we are validating what we already know. With the Internet, we have limitless information about countless topics, and I agree that we are continuing to validate our knowledge.

One example of validating knowledge can be found on the numerous websites that offer medical information where visitors can research illnesses. One such site is www.healthline.com

Some may think that searching for medical information online may contribute to hypochondria, while others may argue that democratizing information is a positive thing and educating yourself about your health is valuable.

Another argument may be that one of the major issues with online medical forums is that people are taking amateur health opinions to heart.

I believe all of these arguments reinforce my original point that we must be mindful of our information sources and always seek more than one opinion to decide whether the information is valid. As long as people are making their decisions based on comparing credible sources, they may actually be obtaining valid information.

Relating back to my Is Wikipedia Wicked? blog post, I think that one of our biggest challenges during the 21st century is filtering the information that is relevant to us on the Internet.

Suzuki urged CPRS members and guests to consider the important literacy need that we are facing. He claimed we can’t just validate what we think we know through buying books written on various topics.

As the pace of society speeds up – everything from consuming news to our everyday interactions (many of which are limited to text messaging and emailing) – our attention span in much shorter. Suzuki claimed that with everything speeding up, people have become shallower and that even an “in-depth report” is now merely two minutes in length!

With this dramatic shift in the way we live, we must learn how to find the information that is relevant to us.

Here’s some food for thought: Suzuki stated that the notion of growth is a means to something else and it is not equivalent to process. To me, the growth of information – on the Internet – may indeed be diminishing our ability to do in-depth research, despite offering us limitless free information.



  1. Anthony on Tuesday 16, 2009

    So jealous that you made it out to Vancouver!

    David Suzuki makes some interesting points.
    The fact that online information is not validated is way older than wikipedia, but encouraging people are aware of this is a great plan.

    Did you get to chat with him?

    Btw, I love the look of your blog.
    Very clean and easy on the eyes!

  2. admin on Tuesday 16, 2009

    Great to hear from you Anthony! Wish you and Kelly could have come to Vancouver with us PR people!

    Yes, I got to chat with David Suzuki after his riveting presentation. I got his LAST book that was left and he signed it for me, it was so great to meet him!

    Thanks for the feedback on my blog. Your blog also looks fantastic – very intuitive! Love the name – Anthony Myers INC: Building the Business of YOU! Very nice.

    Give Kelly my best! Hope you enjoy the big Halifax Canada Day celebration!