Thinking Out Loud

April 21, 2009

Overload of Social Media Causes Man’s Head To Explode


Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, WordPress, YouTube, Picassa… Is it more than our human brains are meant to process?    That’s the question I posed in the comments section of Anne Jackson’s blog today.

While the header for this post is fictional — or has it already happened? — the question it raises is serious:  How much is too much?

First, here’s a little bit of what Anne wrote:

Let’s say all the people who follow me on Twitter and myself were in a big room at the same time.  My friend Joe is somewhere in this room talking about his wife who just had a baby. I’m across the room by the food table eating a cookies. And cupcakes.

And in between us are 3300 other people talking.

Now let me ask you a few questions:

Am I going to hear my friend Joe over all the other conversations?

Am I even going to be able to make sense of all the noise 3300 people talking at once?

No way.

Any of you old enough to remember to remember the Paul McCartney song “Silly Love Songs” will know there’s a part at the end where it breaks into a rather nice three-part counterpoint (probably the most complex thing he’s ever written).    It starts out with a somewhat descending melody:

How can tell you about my loved one?

And then they add a simple ascending melody:

I love you

Finally overlaying the more intricate:

I just can’t explain the feeling’s plain to me; say can’t you see?
Ah, she gave me more, she gave it all to me

Around the time this came out, I was studying some much more orchestral music with a man who had a doctorate in music.   While you can argue what I’m about to say, he claimed that the human brain was only capable of processing two of the lines of the song at once.    You know there are three playing, and you can quickly compare A +  B,  B + C, or A + C; but he claimed that in any given moment in time you can’t actually be fully processing all three of them.

(So you can talk on your cell phone and drive your car, but as soon as you add chewing gum to the mix, everything, including yourself, goes out the window.)

I also often wondered what the incidence of Alzheimer’s Disease is going to be among those of us who currently thrive on either an encyclopedic knowledge, a preponderance towards multi-tasking, or both.  (Both, but not three things, since you wouldn’t be able to truly process three things!)

I also wonder if God has not placed certain limits on what we’re capable of doing and we’re trying to exceed those limits — building our own, individual, personal Tower of Babel to stretching human limitation.

Anyway, here’s what I scrawled on Anne’s blog:

Social media is producing a generation heading for a collective insanity. Your brain was only meant to track so many things at one time. Perhaps the people Twittering are actually teetering on the brink…

I try to keep my posts short and succinct.   There’s only so much people can take.



  1. Amen!

    Comment by Rick Apperson — April 22, 2009 @ 9:42 am

  2. Interesting. I’ve often wondered about Alzeimers ultimately stemmimg from an elderly person’s inability to cope with a)the increase of noise in our world (from numerous sources), b) with the advance of technology they find it impossible to grasp and c) with an increasingly violent and horrific world the likes of which, as they were growing up, they were unaccustomed to.

    It’s almost as if the brain mercifully shuts itself down because of the overload.

    Comment by kaybee — April 22, 2009 @ 1:29 pm

  3. As for me, I have chosen to remain as uncluttered as possible. Call it instinct…and this post is quite comfirming of my decision. A computer is a basic necessity now. And a cell phone (but mine is a very basic pay as you go…I don’t text) But that is where it ends for me. Even thinking of the myriad of other possibilities makes me crazy.

    God did not intend for us to clutter up our minds like that! I think He is screaming frmo Heaven to cut through the noise “BE STILL!”

    Comment by Cynthia — April 22, 2009 @ 2:47 pm

  4. I personally think its a direct result of being overloaded as well, I work at a high tech company and by the end of the day I am thinking out loud….constantly, infact, its the reason why I came across this blog, I searched “causes of thinking out loud” lol and this came up…so I can only confirm from my own personal life experience that I agree with Kaybee and Cynthia. The ultimate reason is dynamically concurrent to each individuals life experience and their own genetic integrity…..those two correlating cornerstones of life I think are the starting point of where to look as the reason why people end up “thinking out loud”

    Comment by Daniel Boyer — October 17, 2011 @ 7:24 pm

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