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Lisa Miller

October 11, 2008

Filtering facts critical in TMI age

It's more than three weeks until Election Day, and my internal hard drive is already just about maxed out.

In this Too-Much-Information Age, we have 24/7 access to news _ and opinion _ on every step (and misstep) the presidential candidates take, every questionable association they ever had, every exaggeration, every innuendo, every fact taken out of context.

I don't have to watch a talk show to find out what a candidate said and how the other side responded. I haven't actually seen the latest "attack" ads, but I know what they allege.

And with a female candidate now in the mix, there's a whole new stream of irrelevant details, from commentary on how she balances work and family to "news" analysis of her decision to wear glasses in an age of Lasik surgery.

I'm all for an informed populace, but in our culture, just seeking information is no longer enough. Being able to hone in on what really matters _ and having the good sense to turn off the news when enough is enough _ has become a critical skill.

I have a friend who is losing sleep because she is so anxious about the outcome of the election. She passionately supports one of the candidates, and she fears that if the other man wins, the future will be bleak. Hearing the endless analysis and the constant play-by-play _ he's up in the polls, now he's down, now they're neck in neck _ is not serving her well.

I know others who are so sick of all the political coverage that they're about to throw up their hands and not pay attention to any of it. But that, too, would be a mistake.

So, how do we find the happy medium between too much information and too little? When do appearances and small details matter, and how can we see past the distractions and focus on the issues? It is not easy. Gut feelings and little things resonate with us in a way that complex issues and big-picture promises can't.

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Lisa Miller

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