They call this the age of information for good reason. As I write this column, I have a smart phone on my hip, a Kindle e-Reader in my drawer, a landline, and two computers connected to high speed Internet. I can find out anything within seconds. Of course that is the problem.
I can literally get whatever answer I want to hear anytime I want to hear it. Conversely, I can shut out anything I find too disagreeable. What’s more, I can say anything I want and see it published 10 different ways without very much effort at all. While that all sounds great and very democratic, it does not bode well for the quality of information available.
The fact is that even academic institutions cannot be trusted for accurate, or at least verifiable, information on their websites. But then, it devolves from there until we find ourselves on Facebook, Twitter, or whatever that new one is — reading all sorts of unchecked facts and other versions of a dubious reality.
Facebook tends to be the main offender here with one post or another spreading its way across the Web like the Alabama offensive line. I see more stuff come across there that you cannot verify to save your life.
But, let’s move on to what the bigger ... actually new problem is. The new problem is not that folks will believe what they want, or that rumors spread faster than truth. The new problem is we put more weight into gossip just because it has been written and publicly posted. I’d like to say that I have never posted something dumb, incorrect, or just plain silly. But, I would be lying. In today’s public forums, we make the same mistakes we always have. The difference now is that 450 people see it immediately.
Thirty years ago, if you said something you may regret, it is possible only a handful of people heard it. Now, many more may have heard about it later. But, just like the telephone game proves, rumor mills break down very quickly. Unfortunately, there is no breaking down that post once it has left the proverbial desk.
So, we get tons of bad information. We generate it ourselves. But now, bad information has a new sort of legitimacy. As if everything you said in the barber shop or the salon were immediately printed in the paper with your picture next to your words, and taken as your final opinion about such and such!
Derek Johnson of Dover can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.