Service of Too Much Information

January 28th, 2010

Categories: Information, Manner of Speech

A reader of this blog, NYC advertising man Hank Goldman, wrote me the other day, “Aren’t there some things a person would rather NOT KNOW?!?!?!?”

He was referring to an iPhone app [application] that for $1 tells you who dropped you as their Facebook friend. Otherwise, if you pay attention to such things, you’d only know that you had fewer friends by looking at your total, but you wouldn’t know who the culprits are. [Maybe if you’re dropped by a rash of friends, you’d best review your Facebook posts. That may be the reason.]

I agree with Hank.

I must be part ostrich, unlike so many who rush to Google to find out every detail about some new twinge. When I go for checkups, I am far more afraid of learning how I am than anticipating pain or discomfort from the standard tests. I know you are supposed to be riveted by how every vein and artery is functioning but….in too many instances the chicken in me votes for a head in the sand approach.

I never look at needles heading in my direction, be they for vaccines, drawing blood or delivering Novocain and in the dentist chair, my eyes are clamped shut for dear life no matter what. I also can’t look at car accidents.

I don’t want to know what’s in the traditional Scottish dish, haggis [made of sheep innards and other things]; I love meat but don’t want to see it butchered, and I arch my back when asked what I consider impertinent questions such as “what did you pay for that?” or “how much did you get for your house?” 

Should someone say, “For years I’ve been wanting to buy a laptop, a raccoon coat, a couture gown or a weekend home in Columbia County, do you have an idea what the price range is these days?” that doesn’t bother me.

I could never be a reporter who rushes up to somone who has just lost a beloved child, parent, husband or sibling and asks, “How do you feel?” Could it be because I know the answer? 

I believe that trade secrets should remain secret and war strategies the same.

If I’m supposed to know something I’ve learned that in time, I will find out the details soon enough whether or not I want to.

Are there any things that you could live without knowing too much about or are you a brave sort who stares the gory facts head-on? Is it easy for you to ask personal questions? Do you think you appear uncaring or disinterested if you don’t?

 

8 Responses to “Service of Too Much Information”

  1. Catherine C Said:

    I agree there are things that it’s best not to know — staying in a hotel room is an act of faith –but that doesn’t include information pertaining to health, products, and services. I watch the medical technician push the needle, ask what the surgery is going to involve or how the test works, and ask about all the things that might be causing symptoms. I recently broke my wrist and had to have surgery. I’ve never had surgery before. Boy, did I ask a lot of questions before and after. Not just my surgeon, but my dermatologist, my internist, and my occupational therapist. As a result of what I learned, my recovery has been rapid.

    I want to know how things work, how they’re made, where, by whom, and from what. I want to know the ingredients in dishes and their origins, as well as how the dish was prepared. I ask a lot of questions, and it’s rare that I don’t learn from the answers.

    I am she of the lost fur coat. With each furrier I visited in looking for a new coat, I learned a lot — including that my new furrier was the right choice. I was having a fitting of my new one coat the other day and asked so many questions, the furrier asked whether my family farmed mink.

    Ostrich is on an awful lot of menus these days, and I have a pair of gorgeous ostrich cowboy boots. It pays to keep your head up!

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Catherine,

    I believe in the NYC discount clothing retailer Sy Syms’ motto—“an educated consumer is our best customer.” And when I buy something significant, such as windows, a computer, or hire someone to design my web site, or even prepare for a test that requires knocking me out, I sure do ask questions.

    And if I take a medication that I’ve read suddenly appears to have alarming side effects, I inquire and I follow instructions to the letter. And I comparison shop as much as time allows so I know whether I am paying the right amount.

    But I don’t want to know that my vein has collapsed when someone is taking blood for a test—they should find one that hasn’t and get on with it so I can be on my way.

    I forgot about hotels! Oh, my. I can get queasy when I think of how many strangers have touched the blankets or contemplate for a second how long it’s been since the blanket has been cleaned. I paid $30 to dry clean one twin size wool blanket recently so I would imagine the blankets aren’t cleaned that often. And that’s just for starters.

  3. David Reich Said:

    There are some things I want to know everything about.

    But there are also many instances where I don’t need every last detail. I know I’m in the minority, but I don’t want to know every detail about Michael Jackson’s death or the women Tiger’s messed around with or what angle OJ may or may not have put the knife in. Just give me the bottom line — dead, guilty or guilty?

    With Twitter, the amount of TMI that gets passed around and around and around again gets dizzying and annoying. But I suppose it is nice that we have a choice — to read it or not.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:

    David,

    Perfect example, the too much information [TMI] on Twitter…I don’t recall seeing a retweet of someone’s announcement that they just got home or bought an ice cream cone or saw a darling dog on the street, although no doubt the other stuff–the excruciating details, as you put it so well, about angles of knives or numbers of girlfriends or whether or not Angelina and Brad are together or fighting go ’round and ’round.

    It must all be filling a space that’s missing in some people’s lives–a harmless diversion to help mask pain for sad lives or add hot sauce to dull ones.

  5. Nancy Farrell Said:

    I’ve been told several times that people tend to confide in me even if they’ve just met me. And I’m happy to listen if I can be of any help. But that’s not to say that I want to know everything.

    I put everything into two categories–things I can do something about and things that I can’t.

    If I can listen to someone’s problems and make them feel better then I’m happy to help.

    But if I can’t do anything about it or can’t learn from it what’s the point of knowing? For example, the day after I had my daughter I was given a booster shot for measles. I was awfully glad I hadn’t known during my pregancy that the first two shots I’d had didn’t protect me. But once I was medically able to get the shot, then of course I wanted to know what it was for.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:

    Nancy,

    Although this example is nowhere near as important as yours–about the injection that folks didn’t mention when you couldn’t have it or do more than worry–similary what would be the point of telling a woman who was walking up to a podium to address a large audience that you noticed a hole or run in her stocking? All she’d do is feel self-conscious and helpless. However, in the instance of a stain on a man’s tie you could say something under similar circumstances because he could remove it, hand it to you and walk on stage all at once and most people wouldn’t think twice about it.

  7. jeremiah Said:

    Jeanne,

    I am in complete agreement. I take a view that there is only so much information a brain can absorb. Therefore, you should limit input to material that is of some use or interest as otherwise you will run the risk of blocking out something that is really worth knowing.

    For example, I do not really need to know that some movie star just got divorced, but on the other hand, it is extremely useful to know (from a reliable source) that Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves are substantially over stated, and have been so for several decades.

    One could go on forever on this one, therefore contrary to my usual practice, I will leave it at that.

    Jeremiah

  8. AA Said:

    I do not like to get a blow-by-blow on someone’s illness, operation, allergy, and so forth. Does that make me a cruel, cold and unfeeling person? If so, I can only say “Sorry.”

    Personal questions: Read the flags. If they say “stay out of my business,” then do NOT ask. If your motives are pure then you can ask a question. But move out if they are not welcome. Then it is none of your business. Good People know the difference.

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