ADDICTED TO DATA – the disease of our century

We are drowning in data. We want to experience more and more but know less and less…

Datenvolumen_Erde_Informationsflut_DatenflutA while ago I wrote a few paragraphs about this concern and complained about being always connected, available, online at daytime and at night while I´m sleeping. My smartphone constantly provides updates from my email account, my facebook page, sms and whatsapp. Additionally I have two apps that keep me up to date for special offers on ebay, amzon etc. Now I stumbled upon an article that treats exactly this issue that affects me so much…  Mark Hurst – an expert for user experience – argues that the new technologies are enslaving us.

He even compares this problem with the global ecological crisis. We can notice notice this crisis every day at the university. Sometimes professors have trouble reaching the students behind their computers, BlackBerrys, iPhone’s because they are constantly switching attention between the online- and offline world. Mark Hurst speaks also for protected thinking areas that can be helpful to recover. Every year we leave the city to go to some place nice to restore our energy our work force. But usually we don’t leave our digital devices at home. We also need vacation from being online.

The German news magazine ‘DER SPIEGEL’ also treated this topic and comes up with some interesting thoughts that I don’t want to keep back. The convenience is that the Internet simplifies our life a lot. We are able to shop, chat, book flights, read newspapers … from one spot. And this is also the great disadvantage – the oversupply of information. A web design blog I recently read even stated that information overload can cause poor decision making, lack of focus, lack of strategic thinking, a breakdown in social and team skills and even health problems. But almost anyone participating in our ‘modernized’ life style is exposed to tons of data. ‘DER SPIEGEL’ published an interesting research study that was done by the US consulting firm ‘RescueTime’ examined the browsing behavior of 40,000 employees. According to this study an average employee would check his email account 50 times a day, open an instant messenger program 77 times and browse 40 different websites.

‘Is GOOGLE making us silly?’


The American author Nicolas Carr, a former student at the Harvard University and also member of the editorial board of advisors of the Encyclopædia Britannica, published this interesting article on this topic. It is worth reading it.

This really alarming article deals with the effect the excessive usage of the Internet does to our brains. It seems as we wanted to banish the nasty paper from our every day life and replace it with e-readers and other fancy touch devices or other computers but actually we banished thoughts and knowledge.  I notice that myself. I read less, sometimes it is really is hard to concentrate for a longer time or read several pages in a row. Browsing the Internet I don’t read – I try to skim some of the information that hits me and I jump from link to link because I just can’t let go and it is impossible to get to the final page researching one topic. We don’t have to think anymore because GOOGLE and Wikipedia are always at hand providing us with any answer without the need to use our brainpower.

And I also experienced the phenomenon of procrastination (which is a recognized mental disease by the way) by being constantly distracted or distracting myself doing this and that or any other bullshit with my smartphone/ computer wasting my time. Because there is constantly any kind of news on the screen, a new email a new article, a new video. According to Carr as human beings it is our nature to always gather and perceive as much information as we can. When we were cave men and cave women is was quite important to know all and everything, about the stuff that was going on around us. In order to survive we continuously had to check our environment for food and saber-tooth cats. But un the 21th century, where the amount of information is inconceivable, we get lost.

 We can just guess how our social interactions and information habits will look like in 50 years or more. But at least I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. Even Nicolas Carr notices about himself: “Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski.“

Quote of the day:

„Anyone can do any amount of work, provided it isn’t the work he is supposed to be doing at that moment.”                                                

Robert Benchley





Everyone talks about it but yet everyone has a different approach to it. In order to clarify what leadership actually is I refer to John P. Kotter, Professor at the Harvard Business School. He states that Leadership differs from management. Leaders would have the visions, ideas about a company seeing the big picture. Managers on the other hand manage (obviously), organize and control the business and are in charge with administrative tasks. A leader is not better than a manager – a business needs both. In his book ‘A Force for Change’ he also concludes that a person cannot be leader and manager at once. There are tasks that require pure rational thinking in order to “get the stuff done” and there are situations that need real leadership in order to motivate people and get them on the right track.

Are leaders born or made?                                    

 After defining the terms I now want to dig deeper into the topic. Can leadership skills be developed or du people just have them? According to Kotter it is a common misbelieve that leaders are born. But not only Kotter but also Stanley McChrystal a former US General, a real leader – a commander-in-chief if you will thinks the same way:

„Leadership is not a gift or a talent. It’s a CHOICE”. Stanley McChrystal

Leadership can be learned and improved by continuous education in that field. Firms have to train their talents and constantly develop their skills in order to adapt to the quick changing business environment.

What does it take to be a (good) leader?

I really like what Christiane Amanpour has to say about this. For her a good leader has to be courageous and stand up for his convictions and beliefs. Leading also involves representing an example for subordinates. Leaders are inspirational and reliable, sincere and lead by example. It is not the post that makes people respect their boss – it is his character and his actions.

Paula BroadwellBut does it always have to be men who become managers or leaders? If we take a look on the statistics it still appears to be a men’s world. Women are often disregarded when it comes to fill responsibility-packed positions of management or leader positions.

At this point I’d like to bring up Paula Broadwell. She served in the US army and also in the US army reserve and she also worked as an anti-terror specialist in a taskforce of the FBI. One can say the really rocked this men’s world. All that she claims is equal treatment for both genders. There doesn’t have to be a quota for woman in business or in the army – just equal treatment (also payment).

She reckons that women who meet the standards, intellectual and physical, should have an equal chance.

Quote of the day:

If you are a leader, the people you have counted on will help you up. And if you are a leader the people who counted on you will need you on your feet.

Stanley McChrystal



The story

Recently I did an assignment on how to overcome the fear of technology. The purpose was getting to know and get oneself into different programs and management tools.

There are countless programs and online services/ platforms that make office work a lot easier, that connect people around the globe and allow us to exchange data, do business, present ourselves…  Great!                                                                                                                            But one day something strange happened:

A few days ago I looked for a video on the web to watch it on my Smartphone. Since I didn’t find it on youtube I watched it on Later on when I checked my facebook page, I realized that it automatically posted what video I had just seen … visible for everyone. Angry but also thoughtful some questions began to arise:

1. personal data protection on the internet

2. what do account passwords protect us against and what are the limit

3. can authorites access my personal accounts and who do they share it with

4. Why do people want to share their trivial everyday life with the whole world (why do I?)


Researching about the connection between Facebook and government led me to this video… you better check this out:

Actually I’m not quite sure if I should laugh or not… but if there is a grain of truth in it we should seriously rethink our internet presence…

Information revealed to third party

It is a fact, that facebook does give information of its users to authorities – “in response to a legal request”.

But how easily governments and authorities can access personal user data we can only estimate. Who knows how international intelligence works together and how the data once “requested” is forwarded.

On the one hand I consider it a success that crimes like terrorist attacks could be avoided by local authorities using facebook as the FBI did. By using facebook a terrorist was prevented from blowing up the Federal Reserve and many lives were saved. But on the other hand I believe it is quite a balancing act, not to cross the fine line and disturb the privacy life of people. And if there really is an interface for US intelligence in order to get information a lot quicker and less complicated every user is living in a surveillance state.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Facebook is the most comprehensive database about people all over the world, containing preferences, relationship status, locations, relatives, photos and so on potentially accessible to US authorities.  Another comment on this topic that I take much more serious comes from Julian Assange, this guy knows what he talks about…

Conclusion/ Reflection

I found out what happened, while watching a clip on I still was logged into facebook which was the reason for the posting… Well facebook won’t be running anymore in the background while I’m doing other things with my phone.

Talking about data protection does not only involve facebook issues. Google for example scans emails “for advertising purposes” and sells this information – the “free” account is paid with our privacy so to speak.

But for me it is disturbing enough that the possibility exists at all to basically “steal” user data without permission. From the firms point of view all users are cash cows. From the intelligence point of view we are all potential terrorists – justifying preventive data capturing. But still – it is the user that feeds the internet with his data.   Users should be careful with exposing themselves and always assume and remember that the intenet doesn’t forget.
Quote of the day

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

Benjamin Franklin