“I stopped reading the news. Is the problem me or the product? », asked journalist Amanda Ripley last July in the Washington Post. In this article that caused a stir, this former information eater tried to understand why the news had ended up with him ” grate on the nerves “.
Exhausted, depressed, unable to act, she distanced herself from the flow of information, encouraged in this by her shrink. She was ashamed of it, until she saw that her friends were doing the same. It was when she discovered in the last annual report of the Reuters Institute that 42% of Americans (and 36% of French people) were now turning away from information, and in particular women, that she decided to investigate the phenomenon and challenge his fellow journalists.
An “overflow of information”
The feeling of information fatigue, to which The Cross The Weekly had dedicated a file in January 2022, precedes the temptation to restrict or cut off the information tap. It is this phenomenon that the observatory of responsible consumption L’Obsoco, the Jean-Jaurès Foundation and Arte wanted to quantify and identify in a study to be published this Thursday 1is September (1).
It shows that 53% of those questioned said they felt ” instead “ (15%) or “very tired” (38%) by getting information. Facing “overflow of information”, the same half (50%) experience ” regularly “ (15%) or “from time to time” (35%) of « stress » or exhaustion.
In detail, the French respondents have “the impression of seeing the same information all the time in a day” (at 85%), that“Too much information prevents them from taking a step back” (59%), to distinguish what is “really important” (51 %), ” useful “ (53%) or allows “to form an opinion” (49 %).
Their symptoms are similar to “information cloud” which prevents us from “to meditate” on events “immediately chased away by others” already described by Edgar Morin in 1984 (in To get out of the XXe century, at Seuil), long before news channels and social networks.
A behavioral reality
“It is a confirmation and amplification of the phenomenon of infobesity and hyperabundance generated by the all-digital”, underlines Bruno Patino, the president of Arte France. The author of Storm in a jar about the dangers of “all-screen society” et “the platformization of the world” is nevertheless ” surprised “ by this figure of 53%.
“It shows that the attention economy is not inexhaustible. When a significant number of actors turn to attention extraction, it ends up tiring people. It’s no longer a weak signal. It is now a behavioral reality. And when a third of the population is very tired of getting information, this has consequences for the public or democratic space. And that’s not to be taken lightly. »
Awareness is needed
From the statistical data, the study identified five profiles. The “hyper-informed in control” (11%), older and male, get information with interest and without effort. Conversely, the “exhausted hyperconnected” (17%), young urbanites addicted to social networks, are “affected by information fatigue”. “It’s a big challenge for the media to go and win them back and see how to create with them a form of informational sobriety”notes David Médioni, of the Jean-Jaurès Foundation, co-author of the study.
On the side of “defiant”, the study distinguishes the “distance” (18%), from modest backgrounds with little information, and “the oppressed” (35%), more women in situations of “intense information fatigue”. The remaining 20%, mostly from peri-urban or rural areas, show little interest in politics and current affairs, without however displaying mistrust.
“The study also shows that the appetite remains, since the information is still considered important for understanding, situating oneself, making decisionsnotes Guénaëlle Gault, general manager of L’Obsoco. But, for that, it is necessary to be able to metabolize it, to digest it well. Awareness is needed to lead to individual and media reactions. »
The ambition of the initiators of the study is to open a public debate during the seminar “And now! “, October 22, on Radio France. Already, the authors foresee that universes where information is “more limited”, such as newsletters, are less tiring and that there is a need for media education. even of“a major public health plan on how we get information”.