The internet is a wonderful thing, and also the absolute worst thing ever.
On the one hand, it allows people to access information at the push of a button and then connect with others worldwide, even sharing that information if they’d like to do so.
On the other hand, it allows people to access information at the push of a button and then connect with others worldwide, even sharing that information if they’d like to do so.
Yes, the relative democratization of communication — compared to the days when gatekeepers more tightly limited the voices to which we might be exposed — is a welcome step in the direction of a more open society.
But at the same time, with more information also comes more noise. And with the ability to spread noise like never in human history, cacophony becomes the default position.
It seems wistful to remember the days of antiquity (also known as the 1990s), when getting your opinion heard required writing a letter to the editor of this thing called a newspaper and then waiting several days to see if it would be published. Or perhaps, if you were really ambitious, sending an entire essay or article to a magazine and then waiting for several weeks to discover the same.
As much as we complained about the difficulty of breaking through these mainstream media filters, I’m not sure if what replaced them is better.
Perhaps it would be fine had we even the most rudimentary skills at discerning truth from falsehood. But humans are not much on critical thinking, Americans least of all. We are a nation of image-crazed consumers and wanna-be “influencers,” actively hostile to critical thought and allergic to teaching such skills in school, lest we usurp the authority of parents to brainwash our children the way we see fit.
And so instead of developing the media literacy necessary to separate the factual wheat from the fictional chaff, millions just “do their own research,” by which they mean to tell you they:
- Own a Google machine;
- Have a lot of extra time on their hands; and,