There is no need to feel overwhelmed
Anyone who says "there's too many podcasts" etc misses the point of the internet. There actually aren't enough, the correct number is infinite (and already true)
Several high profile folk have been complaining lately about too much noise from the web, and this will be increasingly so due to AI-created works. But for our (still, for now) meat-brain purposes the internet has been infinite for a long time now. It’s like being upset there’s too many numbers.
I always find it funny when people say things like “there are too many podcasts” or “too many blogs.” That’s missing the point entirely. Are there too many telephones? Too many Twitter users? Too many email addresses? Too many web pages?” All of these things (blogs and podcasts included) actually become more useful with more participants. Internet natives get this intuitively, people still trying to read the entire magazine section at Barnes and Noble we’ll say a prayer for.
If you feel overwhelmed by something like too many podcasts, you have no one to blame but yourself. We are in total control of how high the volume is set. No one is forcing you to listen to everything, and in fact you don’t need to. And on the supply side, it is one of the few bright spots of the world: that so many people are being metacognitive and electing to share with the rest of us (even in some cases, just themselves and their cat - there is plenty of value doing that, too).
Anyway, here’s a few reasons why you should never feel overwhelmed, and how to help if you do feel this way. Let’s try to cure some of your anxiety.
You are in control how many people you follow, sites you subscribe to etc
Do you constantly have hundreds or even thousands of unread stories in your reader or inbox? Is your Twitter feed impossible to stay at the edge of (probably because you don’t use any lists). A problem is perhaps you follow to too much stuff – there is a limit to how much you can consume in a week and still assimilate it all mentally. Scale down to only what is absolutely essential. Time is the most precious resource, don’t always subscribe to something new just because it is there – take the time to read through an author’s previous posts before adding something new to your personal content stack. Only do so if you decide what’s presented is absolutely essential. If everyone started unsubscribing to sites that are churning out useless work and added purely those that were carefully sharing thought provoking stuff, we could collectively force improvements at a macro level. And in an increasingly AI-created world, this only becomes more important.
You get to choose what is important, so ‘information FOMO’ shouldn’t be a thing
There is no rule that says you must do things such as follow everyone who follows you. And remember, social is not about big numbers, it is about forging connections. In fact, I never even put social links or feeds on my old blog’s (acquired) sidebar on purpose (they were just on my contact page) as I only wanted people to connect with me in external networks who actually want to forge a deep connection. I added friction on purpose (growth hackers hate this one weird trick). Only people genuinely interested in connecting would go that extra step to connect, and so this eliminates those trying to artificially inflate numbers (silly, and not fooling anyone). Having fewer, but more relevant connections is what makes the internet useful – more is not better.
Use tools to filter out the noise
I have many friends who don’t keep their own publications, but subscribe to many others, use Reddit, comment, vote/share stories, follow YouTubers and are here to learn and interact as consumers of information. This is of course how the majority use the internet. And, they are extremely savvy and use tools available to filter out the noise and get only what matters to them. Anyone complaining about ‘noise’ on the web hasn’t yet created an effective system for themselves to get only the content that is vital to them personally. I almost never hear complaints from content consumers, only other creators there’s too much noise. I wonder why?
Everything is archived
If you do feel overwhelmed, it’s likely time to take a vacation, and when you do so turn off all electronics. But if you’re just busy and simply don’t have time to stay on top of your favorite sites for a few days, never fear. Everything your favorite creators make is easily archived for reference later on (for this simple reason I don’t think people who create ‘vanishing’ content are serious creators, how could they be). Digital natives are not like certain traditional newspaper publishers – we don’t change link structures, take down stories, or make old stuff hard to find. Relax, it’s not going anywhere if you can’t get to it today. And if it disappears forever, chances are it was never that important. Always be timeshifting. And remember, if the news is important it will find you (this is especially true with something like a looming tornado, your phone will literally alert you, no need to refresh a feed to get this).
Cull the sellouts
If you subscribe to someone and suddenly, everything they do is purely about extracting value of audiences while providing nothing in return, it’s time to cull. Never feel bad about this. An audience is a precious thing and you should only be giving your valuable attention to those who warrant it. Vote with your clicks and subs. Creators: treat the people who support your with extreme love and care and you generally don’t have much to worry about here.
And if you’re thinking of creating, it’s (still!) your chance to be a pioneer
Cable is already a dead medium, we’re just waiting to completely bury it. This will be a first slowly, then all at once situation. I don’t need to go into the fatalistic details of why: you know the answer. Anyway, the future will be things like YouTube and podcasts, which are in essence the “new cable” for younger cohorts who are quickly taking over the ranks of positions of power and influence in the world. If you want to connect with them, it’s still early days.
In fact, in regard to podcasts in particular, if you’re thinking of starting one, you should. Around 90% don’t get past episode 3. That’s 1.8M who quit. Of 200K left 90% quit after 20 episodes (180K gone). To be top 1% you only need to publish 21 episodes. People who launched podcasts in the pandemic are already quitting, showing why the above is the case. You just have to push through the dip.
Do you feel overwhelmed by the web and world? It may seem like a cacophony, sure – but to me that’s half the fun. There are always new perspectives to read, new sites to discover, and a seemingly infinite stream of good (and also not so good) ideas. We’re getting better daily at sorting the junk from the relevant, but also relevancy is subjective anyway.
Setting up both crowd-powered, personalized and automated filtering is necessary, but also don’t be closed off to ideas and sites outside the network you build. Personally, I view the entire spectrum of social and creator economies as an fascinating experiment to observe, study and be a part of. I always feel the opposite of overwhelmed when taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture, I feel open to possibility. If you don’t have a similar mindset, it’s worth thinking about why and seeing what you can do to improve this. Above advice is just how I’d start if I were feeling overwhelmed, but you’re capable and intelligent and can wrangle the digital universe just fine. I fully believe in you here.
Such a great perspective! I’ve found myself thinking am I subscribing to too many food substacks lately but then I really enjoy the stories and learning from them. They are like an evolved recipe book so why not?
I loved the line, “it’s like being upset there are too many numbers”.
Another damn good take!