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Navigating The Information Highway

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.” Herbert A. Simon

Arguably, the Internet is a mixed blessing. For some, it can be an obsession; for others, a formidable obstacle. This vast repository of instantly accessible information is incredibly convenient, but it’s also a gateway to the sordid, sleazy and sometimes dangerous. It also can challenge one’s ability to filter.

How we use the Internet is definitely age-related. If you’re under age 30, the Internet is like oxygen: an always-available, constant requisite for existence. For the in-betweens, 30-50, it’s an easily adapted-to tool. For older folk, say over 60, it can be a daunting mystery, one that challenges a diminishing mind’s very ability to be nimble, even willing.

I’m an “older folk” who, thank heavens, has a moderate aptitude for computer technology and what it offers.

Besides, I’m curious, and curiosity goes a long way in propelling one toward the Internet, a device that can satisfy most any question.

But there may be a danger inherent in too much information.

Jeff Davidson, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Things Done, says, “Since the 1980s, attention deficit disorder (ADD) has been on the rise, not just among children, but now among the adult population as well. The sudden rise of adult ADD, while it may have genetic components, certainly receives a major boost from our kinetic, hyper-speed, information-bombarded society. Victims of adult ADD are likely to initiate more tasks and projects that they’ll ever finish, get bored easily, seek thrills readily, have a propensity to be late while loathing having to wait, and not be averse to taking foolish risks.”

Isn’t it the truth?

When you combine the Internet with the ever-escalating, ever-abbreviating array of digital social communication – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Tumblr, Instagram, VK, Flickr – seniors can’t help but feel generationally illiterate.

It’s not so much that I’m lost. I’m just exhausted.

And then there’s text messaging, which I use because I must. For some time now, it has taken over as my adult children’s preferred means of communicating with me. Texting apparently avoids ever getting into one of those dreaded “momversations,” which could tie them up for – God forbid – five or 10 minutes per week. I sometimes forget what their voices sound like.

It’s become clear that because of Internet technology, “the conversation” as we knew it is a cultural dinosaur. Instant is the new comprehensive. Shallow is the new deep. Minimus the new maximus. Partial the new complete. I could go on interminably, which would prove my kids’ point.

Back to the Internet. Most people in the world have no access to it, which now, after a groundbreaking study, has been deemed a hazard to their health. According to this nine-year study done at the University College London, using the Internet regularly may prevent cancer. This study appeared in the Oct. 22, 2014, edition of the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention. If you’re an akamai senior Internet user, you’re probably Googling it right now. If not, read on.

“This study investigated the associations between Internet use and cancer-preventive behaviors among older adults.” Close to 6,000 men and women over the age of 50 were surveyed over a nine-year period (2002-2011) and established a link between Internet use and behavior. In lay-speak, those who used the Internet were more likely to get screened for specific cancers (like colorectal cancer, the U.S.’s second-leading cause of death), exercise regularly, eat more fruits and vegetables, and were less likely to smoke. The conclusion: “Internet use showed a quantitative association with cancer-preventive behaviors.”

So, in conclusion, the Internet, with all its inherent chaos and confusion, is, at its core, information. And with information comes power – and apparently health.

Come on, seniors, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. The Internet could save your life, and for that, a little attention-deficit is worth it.