“Infinite Data, Infinite Anxiety.”
By Ron Evans
If you’re a parent, do you have access to a “parent grade portal” (PGP)? No more kids “losing their report cards” on the way home from school. PGPs allow parents (and students) to log in and see up-to-the-moment grades on every assignment, by every teacher, throughout the year. This article in The Washington Post gives more detail on how they work.
Proponents say PGPs keep parents and students informed, so that there are no surprises. But others accessing the portal say it causes fear, stress, and perturbation. What’s the impact of getting a “C” on yesterday’s exam? Is there a pattern? Is my kid not studying enough, or distracted by other things? Might this one score mean the difference between getting into a specific university or not? This combination of high emotion and raw data is just inviting obsessive behavior.
And this level of access to data is a continuing trend. You can now view your hourly electricity usage on the utilities’ website. You can see who opened and clicked on every newsletter you send, see to a hundredth of a percentage the bounce rate on a page on your website, and track your gas mileage on that downhill slope as you’re driving. And of course there’s looking up every little medical symptom online. You might have Ebola.
Access to data in infinite detail is magical. But it’s on us to sip it, not choke on it. Or worse, drown in it.
Are you saying “No!” when it’s too much? If you’re feeling anxiety as you jump into the data, stop and ask yourself: “Is this healthy for me?” and “What steps can I take to try to lower this anxiety I’m feeling?” This week, we’re going to make a conscious effort to reduce the anxiety that comes from too much information.
Time for you to implement. It’s Ron’s Monday Mission™:
Read this section, and then close your eyes. What are the main things causing you anxiety right now? Write them down, and see if any of them are due to infinite data access. For those, target the anxiety you’re feeling this week by making a change. Access the data less frequently. Reduce the types of data you need. Change your password. Whatever it takes. When we get to next week’s Monday Evening Insights, take stock of how your mental experiment worked this week.