With the technology advancements of the last five years, information is at our fingertips. The constant news on Twitter and Facebook makes 2007 seem like the Dark Ages. People use social media to express their opinions and ideas to their friends or followers, whatever the kids are calling them these days.
So with all of these new, more accessible ways of getting news and information, one would think we are more informed than we were 20 years ago. But they would be wrong. In fact, we as a nation have the same IQ level on things like politics and current events as we did two decades ago. So then what’s the problem? Why are we reading more but learning less?
For one, if a person has a strong but baseless opinion on a particular issue, the Internet doesn’t do a good job of challenging a person to explore other opposing views. It more helps them find like-minded people who feed into what they already believe, often developing more extreme views. It has let people choose sources that reinforce their opinions rather than encouraging them to question inherited beliefs. Instead of unifying us, we are becoming more divided.
Hopefully we all know by now that everything on the Internet isn’t always true. Some stuff is true and some of it is false, and for those of us who are simply trying to learn, it is not always easy to distinguish between the two. All of this readily available knowledge is leading many more students away from serious study, the reading of actual texts, and is crippling our writing and grammar abilities.
Maybe we are not any smarter because we refuse to dig any deeper then a tweet or a Facebook status. Instead of picking up a newspaper, more people are inclined to scroll down a newsfeed. We read 140-character tweet about global warming and all of a sudden we think we are Al Gore. We are creating this society of extreme views that come from the most shallow of places. Believe it or not, there was a time we went to the library to verify things we heard. Now, all we need to feel engaged is to scan some headlines via social media.
Even though we live in the information age, it is foolish to believe that dispensing more information more quickly will, by itself, raise the general level of public awareness. A person must first want to be informed. Americans, to me, just don’t seem that interested. We like our information short and sweet, and don’t forget cheap. We see no reason to buy a newspaper when we can read articles for free. There is no motivation to further research important current or historical events if it wont result in a good grade.
I guess if you look at the glass half full, one can argue it is better to know a little about a lot, then to know nothing at all. It is better to have an opinion, even if the Internet is clearly guilty of creating partisan thinkers. The Internet gives all of us the ability to feed our ever-growing need to be informed, but on our terms. We know what we want. If we feel inclined to know more about something, we will look into it. If not, we will take Wikipedia’s word for it.