In the age of the Internet, the biggest problem with information is too much of it.
You have a headache and want to know what's wrong. According to WebMD, it could be one of 8,752 conditions.
You're wondering, "What should I do with my life?" Google has 194 million answers.
You want to watch a life-changing documentary on Netflix but, because you encountered their infinite scroll, end up watching HGTV commercials.
From careers to cyber threats, distilling and managing information in an efficient, meaningful way is one of our generation's most pressing problems.
It's also a source of great potential.
Information influx has spawned unrelenting demand for a simple service: curation. Curators are people or groups we trust to cut down, compile and relay information that matters to us. Curators are 2017's human cliff notes. They give us answers and information without anxiety or overwhelm.
Curation also offers a less patronizing form of self-help. I'm part of a solopreneur community hosted by author and career coach Jenny Blake called Momentum. Blake positions it as an "oasis in the Too Much Information Age," explaining that members can "block out all the internet noise and focus on the good stuff with highly curated tips and tools that have been road-tested to work." Momentum's curated career advice can, says Blake, "shave years off of your own business and creative struggles."
Curation creates communities. Take 27-year-old Jules Schroeder, whose life has already consisted of cashing out on a seven-figure hair feather business, becoming a sponsored snowboarder, and podcasting for Forbes' 30 Under 30 channel. Her latest endeavor is the Unconventional Life Summit, where she'll combine her own unconventional life wisdom with that of 25 other non-traditional entrepreneurs for three days of online learning and connection. "People are getting ahead and advancing their careers faster than ever through communities that compile others' relevant life experiences in the most accessible way possible," Schroeder told me.
Because curation compounds our best work, it's a modern method of collaboration. Author and TED speaker Jared Kleinert is about to publish his second book, 3 Billion Under 30: How Millennials Continue Redefining Success, Breaking Barriers and Changing the World. But rather than write the entire book himself from a singular, inherently limited perspective, he recruited 75 superhuman millennials to write their own stories of risk, success and progress. "I'm simply the messenger bringing these stories to you in curated fashion," Kleinert writes in the introduction. The result is an anthology that up-and-coming millennials can build on for their own work and dreams. Curated stories help us collaborate by imitation.
Counter-intuitively, curation is also a mode of creativity. Maria Popova's popular blog Brain Pickings is a curated blog publishing three interdisciplinary articles a week. On her about page, Popova describes herself as an "interestingness hunter-gatherer" and her blog as a "cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest." Popova is perhaps less of an author and more of, in Jaron Lanier's terms, a moderator. But information discovery, Popova wrote in an article for Harvard's Nieman Lab of Journalism, "is a form of creative labor in and of itself." Curation "cross-pollinates" and "connects countless dots," resulting in a "combinatorial force" of creativity across disciplines.
Curation is the future of news. There are too many sources to follow. Instead, we want to follow source-ers: people who source lots of information and make something intelligible and trustworthy from their findings. theSkimm, for instance, provides a popular daily newsletter summing the day's most noteworthy news in an easy-to-read, entertaining format. Advertising that they send "all the news and info you need to start your day," their tagline is "Making it easier for you to be smarter." Bipartisan curation combats confirmation bias by offering quick, well-rounded updates on what's going on in our world.
Finally, curation is an opportunity to define ourselves in the age of possibility. No longer solely a product of our circumstances, citizens of the Internet have the luxury of learning and becoming nearly anything. We are what we consume. As Popova wrote, "Curation is a form of pattern recognition -- pieces of information or insight which over time amount to an implicit point of view." The information we choose to form our perspectives and decisions is the most critical form of curation of all. If curation is a series of filters, we are the final one.
Thus too much information is a technological problem with a fundamentally human solution. Curation requires relying on people we trust, including ourselves, to decipher what matters. As we begin to believe in systems of helping each other understand what's important, information becomes relevant, personal, and connective.