Not too long ago, sharing information with thousands of people worldwide
was a serious industry which was factually correct and actually trusted. The
cost of printing newspapers and magazines and the time and manpower it took to
produce and transport them created physical barriers to how much could be
written and how much we as intellectuals could read. Before word counts and
three-minute reads were even a thought journalists were allotted column inches
which they could not go over. Paper was big money, and the space your publisher
set aside was a representation for the value and quality of your story.
Today, those limits have completely
evaporated, and we’ve lost our best neurological shortcut for deciding who to
trust. The democratisation
of publishing seemed like a great idea, but honestly it has been a disaster for
democracy. With the rise of websites such as Complex, VICE and Buzzfeed
anything can be published. I recently watched a video about a woman working for
BuzzFeed who couldn’t think of anything to write one day for work, so she wrote
about Malta and became overnight famous in Malta and ended up meeting a
relative of the Prime Minister. (BuzzFeedVideo, 2017).
We, as a human species, we thought more information would make us more intelligent
and allow us to consider a wider range of theories and allow us to broaden our
horizons. Instead, our brains have gone into overdrive to completely do the
opposite. In a way, people of this generation are doing anything to take in
less information than ever before. Without any limits on what can be published
or how much we can consume, we’ve decided we can’t trust anything we read.
There is so much fake news that’s very heavily thrown around on the internet
these days that trusting something you read just is something that needs to be
very carefully considered.
The internet has played the biggest
roll in the democratisation of media because everything is available at the
click of a button and it’s easier than ever to find something you wish to
read/watch or listen to. The fact that we as the generation that are the most
technologically informed have played a big part in that. Faced with a never-ending
scrolling news feed, our brains revert to a digital form of fight or flight. Some of the people that read embrace their social
media bubbles and they’re completely okay with that being their lives. They rely on their friends to
provide a new, perspective on the information they receive. This is the fight reaction, because it leads to more anger, more
conflict and more divergence.
The three most searched webpages of 2017 were, Google, Facebook and
YouTube. This reiterates my point that people are getting their information
from different places now, whereas some 50 years ago the only places to get the
news was a newspaper and the select people that had televisions in their homes.
The world has evolved and so have the inhabitants of it, physical sources such
as newspapers and magazines are on the decline and online sources are booming
more than ever.
Your friends cannot contribute anything in your quest to become an
informed, responsible citizen?—?they post on social
media so they can feel smart or edgy, and so they can grab a momentary rush of
dopamine from a few hours of approval and attention. That’s not a recipe for a
calm, balanced view of the world. It’s a recipe for disaster, everything that’s
posted on social media anymore is hunting for likes, retweets and followers and
this is what people use to value their importance. They got 13 likes on that
photo, they’re ugly. They have 27,000 followers and they feel as if they’re
somehow more important than the next person.
Others go off the grid and shun the news entirely,
these are the people who aren’t willing to embrace change and see that the
world is changing every day and social media and the internet are at the front
of it all. The media have fully embraced that, you see every single source of media
out there is now there at the click of a button.
However, this works well if you
truly aim to live in a cabin in the woods, but a certain degree of engagement
and understanding of government and current events is an essential to being an
active participant in society. The urge to cut yourself off is the natural flight response to the threat of infinite information.
It protects your brain in the short term, but it prevents you from reaching
your potential. (Rob Howard, 2017)
The rest of us rely on an elaborate set of tools,
tricks and willpower to strike a fragile balance.
But even the best time-trackers and
ad-blockers can only get you so far. Every time you engage with the media
vortex, you’re using willpower, exposing yourself to stress, and making it more
likely you’ll get sucked back in. All that risk, and there’s no guarantee you’ll
even find a source you trust because everything is so easily manipulated and
twisted for someone’s own agenda, you don’t know fact from fiction anymore.
We can’t deny the value of
technology and the Internet, and there were plenty of problems when journalism
was ruled by a supremacy of major publishers. But we also can’t build a nation
of knowledgeable citizens in an environment of unlimited stimulation and
The truth hidden behind the likes, comments and
clickbait is that the world is not quite as extreme and chaotic as
When we step back from the vortex, even for a few days, the snap
reactions to scary stories and angry tweets fade away. We have the calm,
relaxed focus to see the big picture?—?including the parts of
the world we like and the parts we want to change?—?and we can use that
renewed energy to become the citizens the world deserves.