Taming the Information Tide: Perceptions of Information Overload in the American Home

Authors: Eszter Hargittai, W. Russell Neuman, and Olivia Curry

Download: Please contact Eszter Hargittai for a pre-print copy.

Citation: Hargittai, E., Neuman, W.R. & Curry, O. (2012). Taming the Information Tide: Perceptions of Information Overload in the American Home. The Information Society. 28(3):161-173.


This study reports on new media adopters' perceptions of and reactions to the shift from push broadcasting and headlines to the pull dynamics of online search. From a series of focus groups with adults from around the United States we find three dominant themes: (1) Most feel empowered and enthusiastic, not overloaded; (2) evolving forms of social networking represent a new manifestation of the two-step flow of communication; and (3) although critical of partisan "yellers" in the media, individuals do not report cocooning with the like-minded or avoiding the voices of those with whom they disagree. We also find that skills in using digital media matter when it comes to people's attitudes and uses of the new opportunities afforded by them.


The authors are grateful to David Poltrack of CBS and Becky Mills of CBS Television City for assistance in this project. They thank the anonymous reviewers and Harmeet Sawhney for helpful feedback. The first author thanks the Northwestern School of Communication’s Innovations Fund for assistance. The first and third authors are grateful to the Northwestern University Residential College Fellow Assistant Researcher Award program for its support.

If you would like to copy, distribute or reprint this paper “for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research” (see Title 17, US Copyright Code) then please contact the publisher to secure permission.