In Aeon Magazine, Donald Hine writes about the glut of information available to us, and about how our society always has its nose in a device of some kind of device in an effort to access that information. He asks:
“Exactly what is it that we are looking for?”
I know what we are looking for. Not salvation. Not nurture. Not power. We are collectors. Amassers. Acquirers. Everybody has something that they collect. Ask on any social network what people collect, and it will be your most popular post, with responses longer than a roll of toilet paper. Not only do we collect, we like to tell what we collect, and talk about what we collect.
And some of us collect information. Knowledge Facts. Trivia. Oddments of data. But just as our other collections, a collection of information can be boring. Because, as with any other collection, what can you do with it except look at it. Does it affect your life in some way, other than taking up space?
We collect stuff thinking somehow it will give our lives meaning. But meaning is hard to come by. In order to create meaning out of our collection, we have to create a narrative from it, stories which help us make sense of it. That’s why we like to talk about our Elvis memorabilia collection, our navel lint collection, our toilet seat art collection, our barf bags collection, to make sense of why we have this collection.
So, too, with our collection of information. What is there to do with it, except talk about it?
As Hine says, “There is only so much information any of us can bear, and we cannot go fishing in the stream if we are drowning in it.” There are only so many artisanal beer bottles we can collect before they all become worthless and meaningless. Our collections reach a tipping point where they are beyond talking about. They simply exist.
So what do you collect?