Learning to discern in a world intoxicated with information

The word intoxication refers to the ingestion, inhalation or skin contact with tangible products that cause serious physical injury or death. These are harmful chemicals in the form of drugs, poisons, gases, etc. More recently, a variant has been introduced into our lexicon that refers to the impairment of mental health caused by toxic people or ways of life.

Information intoxication refers to the state of mental and emotional saturation that occurs when a person is exposed to an overwhelming amount of information that he or she is unable to process. Of course, the level of saturation is not the same for everyone, but everyone does have a limit.

There is so much and so varied information that we receive from the moment we wake up until we fall asleep: advertising on household product packaging, on public roads, the media such as radio, TV, newspapers and magazines, the information needed to do each of our jobs, social networks, advertising on these platforms, and so many other ways in which information reaches us and continues to reach us.

Information intoxication affects our cognitive capacity and makes it difficult to process information effectively, with an impact on concentration, decision-making and the ability to assimilate what is relevant and discard the rest. The most frequent consequences of information intoxication in our society are stress, anxiety and fear produced by the excessive consumption of negative news that abound in the media and social networks, often generated with the sole intention of causing harm.

Recognising the negative effect of information intoxication is the first challenge in order to reduce its consumption along with developing critical thinking in order to be able to discern in the face of information bombardment. That is, to be able to distinguish by means of the intellect between two or more pieces of information on the same subject.

The ability to discern should be important and a priority in educational processes from the pre-school stages, and even more so in times of massification and access to consult, for example, artificial intelligence sites that deliver information without any consideration or filter regarding its veracity, relevance or validity.

Although the development of critical thinking and the capacity for discernment are important in Chile’s education system, their implementation is extremely difficult because it requires a comprehensive and continuous approach involving teachers, principals, families and society in general. But the reality is that we are faced with a system that is structured around specific subjects, with teachers who do not have the necessary tools and resources to promote critical thinking and discernment in the classroom.

If we want to promote people’s mental health and well-being, it is essential to learn to discern in this information-intoxicated world.

Marcelo Trivelli