- Feb. 7, 2020
- 4 min read
In the information age, one would think we would be better informed. Duh. But are we?
We have access to more information than ever before. Yet humans only pay attention to what interests them. With a world of information just a click away, have we raised the bar of civilization by going en masse to absorb the wisdom of Euripides, Jung, or Chaucer? Not so much.
The top U. S. web sites include many that lead elsewhere. Google or DuckDuckGo are paths to another destination. On the other hand, when you go to Pornhub it’s not because you’re trying to order tennis shoes.
Assuming the world will become better informed when information becomes more accessible is like expecting to get in better shape because they built a health club across the street.
I heard a complaint last week from someone who purchased a new Peloton exercise bike. They were disappointed they couldn’t drape as many clothes on it in their bedroom as they could on their old bike.
Although we have more information than ever, we are arguably not as well-informed.
There are times I get bogged down in pointless political arguments on social media. They are generally days with the letter “a” in them. For some reason, I’m still amazed at the lack of effort, or perhaps intention, to reach reasonable and rational conclusions.
If you make a clear, verified, undeniable, factual statement, giving the documentation –something like “Obama is the only president to not have a single year of economic growth of 3% or more,” according to blah, blah, blah – moments later, you get a response that says something like “You’re just a racist misogynist anti-Semite Trump sycophant who wants old people to die and children to starve and to eat whales, dolphins, and spotted owl.” They say it like it’s a bad thing.
The chances of that comment leading to anything constructive are about the same as Nancy Pelosi apologizing for tearing up the State of the Union speech.
Social media is where most of the kids that no one talked to in high school get their revenge. On social media you can pretend to be something you’re not: tough, intelligent, human. You can hide your weaknesses, your appearance, and your prehensile tail. You can take on anyone and everyone and dare them to come after you. Although they can’t, of course, because they aren’t necessarily even on the same continent.
If you’re Mitt “Can you show me where I can rent a spine?” Romney you go on Twitter under a false name, Pierre Delecto. And, no, I am not making that up.
It’s easy to be confident and bold when there’s no associated risk. It’s like staring at a picture of a super model, asking her to sleep with you, and then bragging she didn’t say “no.” (If you’ve been turned down more often than a Holiday Inn bedspread, you might try it.)
I was defriended a year or so ago by someone with whom I used to work. I always thought she was smart and nice. When she moved to Texas several years ago, I put her in touch with a few friends in Dallas I thought she’d like.
Then, for reasons unknown, she became an anti-Trumper. She’s not alone, of course, but since when does disliking a president require that you have your brains, logic, or manners sucked out of your brain? I made an incorrect assumption that she would still welcome civil and factual discourse. I was wrong. Spectacularly so.
She has bought hook, line, and sinker into every liberal and anti-Trump argument extant. Trump, in her view, is not just someone with whom she disagrees. He’s wholly without redeeming value. Never mind that he’s scored an incredible list of victories for conservative policies. He’s to be reviled, never defended, and if you deign to even suggest he has any redeeming qualities, you’re as loathsome as he.
It became intolerable for her to run the risk that one of her followers might accidentally stumbling on opinions different from their own. How could they ever recover from exposure to diverse opinions? Shudder.
Why is it so many people who celebrate diversity in race, religion, or gender are dedicated to wiping out diversity of thought? Nothing will get you banned from the cool table in the liberal corner of the high school cafeteria faster than expressing a conservative opinion.
Which brings us to an obvious point that seems to escape so many on the left and their kindred spirits in anti-Trump land: if you don’t like what I’m saying, ignore it. Skip over my post next time. But defriending? It’s become yet another way to pretend you’re tougher than you are. This person, whom we’ll call Nancy (because that’s her name), received a lot of praise from followers for taking the brave action of defriending me. Yeah. Right. It takes less courage to click your mouse than to engage in debate, defend your positions, of just celebrate variety as the spice of life.
Carl Sagan presaged the paucity of factual content in the media. He envisioned a time when we had much more information but far less knowledge. He was smart and prescient. Today, there is more data than ever at hand. However, the volume of information seems to be inversely proportional to its usefulness and accuracy. More to come. Cheers.