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infomania

noun [uncountable]

a condition of reduced concentration caused by continually responding to electronic communications such as e-mail, text-messaging etc.

'The abuse of “always-on” technology has led to a nationwide state of infomania where UK workers are literally addicted to checking email and text messages during meetings, in the evening and at weekends.'

999 Today 22nd April 2005

'This rate of decline in intelligence compares unfavourably with the four-point drop in IQ associated with smoking marijuana, according to British researchers, who have labelled the fleeting phenomenon of enhanced stupidity as “infomania”.'

China Daily 25th April 2005

research recently commissioned … concluded that 62% of adults are addicted to checking e-mail and text messages

If you regularly thumb a quick text message while talking to people, or consider a frequent check of your incoming e-mails to be an integral part of your working day, you may unwittingly be the victim of a new and widespread addiction, allegedly more detrimental to your mental well-being than smoking marijuana! Researchers have recently coined the term infomania to refer to an alleged drop in intelligence caused by the persistent urge to respond to electronic methods of communication.

Research recently commissioned by technology experts Hewlett Packard, concluded that 62% of adults are addicted to checking e-mail and text messages. An investigation of over a 1,000 adults, carried out by the Institute of Psychiatry at the University of London, found that 1 in 2 workers respond to an e-mail or text either immediately or within the hour. 1 in 5 people wouldn't consider it inappropriate to interrupt a business meeting or social gathering in order to respond to a text message or e-mail.

Victims of infomania are thought to suffer a significant loss of concentration, their minds in a permanent state of readiness to reply to texts and e-mails which distracts them from other tasks. This may result in an average drop in IQ of 10 points, more than twice the reduction caused by smoking marijuana and the equivalent to losing a night's sleep. Men are allegedly more susceptible to infomania than women.

Discussions surrounding this potentially detrimental effect on productivity often also feature the adjective always-on as in always-on society/technology etc., used in similar contexts to refer to the intrusive nature of electronic communication in the noughties.

Background – infomania

This new sense of infomania was coined by a team of researchers led by Dr Glenn Wilson of the University of London. The word had existed prior to the research however, a blend of information and mania ('an extremely strong enthusiasm for something') used to describe an excessive enthusiasm for accumulating facts. A derived noun infomaniac also exists in this latter sense, referring to someone with an obsessive thirst for knowledge.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 1st August 2005.

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