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Information Overload – The Digital Era

Filler Vs Fact

Conduct an Internet search to find information to help you figure out why your stomach hurts and what you can do about it and you’ll discover all sorts of fascinating information. For example, at Just Cleansing you will learn all about colonic irrigation and that the walls of your intestines are probably impacted with as much as 20 pounds of fecal matter, some of which could be decades old. If you try to search more specifically for conditions such as acid reflux, colitis, constipation, Crohn’s Disease, diarrhea, diverticulitis, or irritable bowel syndrome, you will likely be able to confirm much of that same information at other sites such as Blessed Herbs. You see, when fecal matter gets “backed up” it is “the beginning of true autointoxication on a physiological level” because all of this fecal matter “can have the consistency of truck tire rubber. It’s that hard and black”! Luckily, the authors of these websites and countless others just like them can help you learn about everything that your doctors purposely conceal from their patients about health and wellness. There are only one or two very small problems with these types of websites: the information they publish is complete nonsense and the people who publish it have no educational or professional medical credentials of any kind and (usually) they have bogus products and services that they hope to sell by convincing you that they know more about your medical condition than your licensed physician who graduated from an accredited medical school and then spent the better part of a decade in professional training in gastroenterology. You get the picture…

Addicted to Virtual Mediums…

Practically since the earliest era of the Internet, critics have expressed concerns about some of the detrimental effects of our increasing reliance on the virtual medium for information, among other things. As early as 1999, Clifford Stoll wrote about the “shallowness” of the social relationships formed online and he also expressed concern that individuals who spent a lot of time online were becoming too “isolated” from others and losing their interpersonal communication skills in his book High Tech Heretic (1999). A decade earlier, Neil Postman expressed even scarier concerns in his Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business (1985)  Specifically, Postman was worried that the increasing dominance of the information medium of television would eventually undermine the rationality of logical thought and argument in society by reducing quality of the information published to match the lowest common intellectual denominator. More importantly, Postman argued that in the future, intellectual freedom would be substantially replaced by the opinions and beliefs that those who controlled the entertainment media chose to promote, and that this would occur insidiously, because it would be by the consent of the audience choosing to be entertained over being informed. In many respects, Portman’s views were prescient, at least with respect to the television medium: media conglomerates routinely determine what information (and editorial positions) to promote based on their commercial potential and not on their relative importance, or relevance, or accuracy. Since the predominance of superficial but “exciting” news stories already existing when Portman wrote his book, we can assume that what he had in mind was something much more along the lines of FOX News and Rupert Murdoch:

Marie Winn presented similar views more recently, in her Plug-In Drug: Television, Computers, and Family Life (2002), emphasizing the unconscious manner by which the increased availability of digital entertainment and information changes the social behaviors and patterns of individuals and families. A year earlier, David Brooks focused on a different problem with developing patterns of digital communications in his Time to do Everything but Think (Newsweek, 2001), suggesting that the ever-increasing efficiency of digital multi-tasking destroys the potential for intellectual creativity that requires “down”. Like Stoll (1999), Sherry Turkle wrote about the way that the anonymous virtual medium changes fundamental aspects of human interpersonal relationships, although she focused more on the psychology of anonymity and the potential pathologies associated with an increasingly virtual world. The question I ask – at this stage, is there a genuine reason to be concerned?

Evolution

Ultimately, many of the points raised are important; however, some of them seem to ignore one other element: namely, that the virtual medium is still in its infancy, and many of the problems associated with the contemporary virtual world are probably symptoms of growing pains. In all likelihood, by the time the Internet is 50 years old, it will be sufficiently well regulated to enable users to conduct more accurate informational research without stumbling into impacted colon websites. Today, the Internet is still much like a brick-and-mortar library without any control over its inventory: writers simply file whatever they write by inserting it alphabetically onto the library’s shelves. Likewise, evolving law and behavioral norms will substantially obviate any issues relating to the relative anonymity of the virtual world in its original incarnation. Unfortunately, the concerns of Portman as to the dominance of the conglomerates who control the news were already a reality long before the Internet Age. On the other hand, today’s children will have a much more seamless relationship with the virtual world, largely because, unlike most adults online, they will have grown up with it.

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About bellera

Student at Fordham University

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