More Information may Leave us With Less Knowledge and a Change of Personality

Is it possible that more information may leave us individuals with less knowledge and a change of personality in the future?...

11 Sep 2019 1997 Views

Written by Matilda Nilsson

Information and communication technologies have become an important part of our lives. The expansion of new technologies and virtual communication including personal computers, tablets and mobile phones is causing modifications in individuals’ daily habits and behavior. (Oberst, Wegmann, Stodt, Brand & Chamarro, 2016)

Global information society

The Network Society

Within academia it is referred to as The Network Society. It is the digitalized fast-paced information society that the world is now facing, which is characterized by a high level of uncertainty and the usage of new media (Van Dijk, 2012). Information overload and competitiveness increases and the societal impact has been evolutionary (Singh & Finnemore, 2015). Although the world has become smaller, it has also become more complex. It furthermore leaves individuals with questions as well as challenges. In the digital era, marketing has shifted from being metaphorically described as bowling, to become more of a pinball game. Meaning that control has been lost, different phenomenon also harder to understand and the future more difficult to predict. Moreover, you can never be certain of the outcome that your input will provide (Henning-Thurau, Hofacker & Bloching, 2013).

Impact on the Richness of the Human Mind

Van Dijk (2012) discusses some values that, in this network societal structure, are at stake. Among those is the richness of the human mind. He argues that there are two sides to this coin. On one hand, the richness of the human mind may increase because of the diversity of impressions we gather through new media. Meanwhile, it may also be reduced because these impressions are offered out of context in schematic, pre-programmed and disintegrated settings. Because information is available in large amounts, it can never be fully processed by the recipient (Van Dijk, 2012) and the human mind might feel inadequate (Singh & Finnemore, 2015). This may raise questions like: can we even process information that is important to us? Or: is there even time and energy to reflect upon information on a deeper level to truly understand a message?

Fatigue of Social Networking

Today, we are attached to our smartphones in a pattern of habitual usage that feeds us with instant access to news, social networks, pop culture, location-based information etc. (Bright & Logan, 2018). Social networking leads all categories of digital media in engagement, accounting for one out of five minutes spent online. In response to this, digital media, and in particular social media, has become increasingly important within advertising. Bright & Logan (2018) claim that as a consequence of this, Millennials are now showing signs of “social media fatigue”. In other words, there is a tendency to back away from media consumption when there is too much content in their social media feeds. Andrew Sullivan (2016) refers to this tendency as a “distraction sickness” in his article and explains how his brain at some point had never been so occupied, so insistently, by so many different subjects. He argues that our smartphones are almost taking over our lives. Instead of existing in the physical world and interact with people face to face, we are continuously looking at our phones and interacting with each other in the digital sphere.

“Just look around you – at the people crouched over their phones as they walk the streets, or drive their cars, or walk their dogs, or play with their children…We have gone from looking up and around to constantly looking down.” (Sullivan, 2016)

Ugur & Koc (2015) discuss that the misuse of our smartphones and tablets has put individuals at risk of compromised social interactions. Adults have a tendency to behave like a child, poking their “shiny toy” and excluding anyone and anything else while doing it.

Opting Out of the Digital Sphere

Is it possible that more information available may leave us individuals with less knowledge all together? As Van Dijk (2012) states, that because the amount of information is so enormous, there is no time for an individual to process it all. Instead, having that much information in your close reach may increase the quantity of your knowledge base, but not necessarily the quality. It may result in individuals knowing little about much and not truly understand and question their existing knowledge. More information available might also have an opposing effect on us humans in regards to using digital technology (Morris & Cravens Pickens, 2017). Today, people are trying to turn off their digital devices more frequent. Although positive outcomes are associated with technology use, the concern for always staying connected has motivated individuals to participate in periods of unplugging with the goal to enhance individual well-being and their relationships (Morris & Cravens Pickens, 2017). For people to opt out of the digital sphere, both in work life and on a personal level, leaves the individual less exposed to information. What can this mean? By being less exposed to information, we are also less prominent to experience and process information communicated in advertising for example. Which in turn will have future implications for marketers. If people unplug from their digital devices, will it still be valuable to communicate through social platforms?

Digital disconnection

Possible Future Personalities

Van Dijk (2012) highlights that several authors expect interaction with digital media to change the human personality in the long run. He explains that such expectations are speculative, but that the technological impact on human language and communication may lead to personality changes and that psychology is uncertain of the transfer of personalities to future generations. He emphasizes that worst case scenario will mean that these changes may lead to the following four related personality types in our information society:

  • Rigid/Formalistic personality – individuals who are constantly working with digital media are frequently being confronted with changes in language. Therefore they may make the same demands on natural communication with their fellow humans as they do on technically mediated communication.
  • Computerized personality – functions in our brains, which aid us to speedily locate, categorize and assess opposite bits of information, have become stronger. People may start considering the human brain to be a series of parallel-connected processors and our personality to be a programmed software.
  • Second-best social personality – digital media serve as a safe replacement for direct human interaction. This applies to all those people, who for some reason are afraid of intimacy and who want to gain more control over it. Developing a second-best social personality has become more of a reality than ever before.
  • Multiple personality – digital media and the Internet all together enable us to play several different roles and take on multiple identities. In modernity, personalities multiply as some parts of our identities and personas are displayed in some social contexts and other parts in others.

Negative aspects of these possible personalities can be many. Consequences may be a decline in quality of interpersonal communication, loss of empathy for fellow humans, losing ourselves in the play of multiple identities etc. None of those really benefits us in real life, which is where we truly exist. Van Dijk (2012) also argues that the problem with Internet creations is that the digital reality does not offer any resistance. Individuals try to escape the troublesome, and sometimes unpleasant, relationships. Therefore, escapism is of great risk when playing with identities online. What implications may this have for the future you then can ask yourself? Van Dijk (2012) claims that a continuing development of the four presented personality types and the further advance of technological capabilities may turn human beings into some sort of “cyborgs”. The term refers to a system of human- and technical components increasingly regulating itself within the environment and constituting a new whole, where humans are integrated in technology and technology integrated in humans. Research fields such as artificial intelligence is developing and try to imaging what the future might look like. What mental consequences and implications for the human brain will our future technology have, whatever it might be?

Human Interaction in the Future?

As Morris & Cravens Pickens (2017) state: there are positive associations with the development of technology use. Meanwhile, there are also negative implications that we might not really reflect upon on a daily basis. The question I maintain that we should ask ourselves is whether we want to keep our personal relationships and continue existing in the physical world? It is essential not to take relationships and human interaction for granted, while keep starring at the screens of our digital devices. Do we really want the four personality types Van Dijk (2012) discusses to define our future as human beings? Do we really want to become individuals who shield ourselves from the physical world by staying attached to our phones and computers all day, every day? In doing this we risk missing out on what is actually happening in our own lives and of those in our close surroundings.


Bright, L. & Logan, K. (2018) Is my fear of missing out (FOMO) causing fatigue? Advertising, social media fatigue, and the implications for consumers and brands, Internet Research, Vol. 28 Issue 5, p1213-1227. 15p. Available online: (Accessed 26th of November)

Henning-Thurau, T., Hofacker, C: F. & Bloching B. (2013) Marketing the Pinball Way: Understanding How Social Media Change the Generation of Value for Consumers and Companies, Journal of Interactive Marketing, Vol. 27 Issue 4, p.237-241. Database: Business Source Complete. Available online: (Accessed 27th of November)

Morris, N. & Cravens Pickens, J.D. (2017) “I’m Not a Gadget”: A grounded Theory on Unplugging, American Journal of Family Therapy. Database: CINAHL Complete. Available online: (Accessed 27th of November)

Oberst, U., Wegmann, E., Stodt, B., Brand, M. & Chamarro, A. (2017) Negative consequences from heavy social networking in adolescents: The mediating role of fear of missing out, Journal of Adolescence. Available online: (Accessed 27th of November)

Singh, S. & Finnemore, J. (2015) Restoring Inner Peace in a Science Dominated Society, International Journal of religion & Spirituality in Society, Vol. 6 Issue 1. Database: Academic Search Complete. Available online: (Accessed 26th of November)

Sullivan, A. (2016), I used to be a human being, New York Magazine, Sept 18, pp. 1-22. Available online: (Accessed 27th of November)

Ugur, N. & Koc, T. (2015) Time for Digital Detox: Misuse of Mobile Technology and Phubbing In World Conference on Technology, Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Procedia – Social and Behavioral Sciences. 3, Database: ScienceDirect Available online: (Accessed 26th of November)

Van Dijk, J. (2012), The Network Society, 3rd edition, Sage Publications

Image References:

Image 1: Information Society (2015) Available online: (Accessed 28th of November)

Image 2: Digital Disconnect (2015) Available online: (Accessed 27th of November)

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Students from the International Marketing and Brand Management program at Lund University are the contributing authors for the BrandBase blog.