The Speed of Consumption

In a recent article, Kavin Senapathy responded to a question with the following gem:

“The internet information glut is growing faster than our critical thinking skills. The uncertainty and confusion this glut causes is ripe for exploitation.”

To refer to the Internet as a glut of information is absolutely spot-on. In addition to traditional media is new media, an infinite number of blogs, and other repositories. We can easily become instantly knowledgeable about almost anything. This power comes with its own responsibilities though.

Most online sources have some sort of inherent bias. The assumptions that skew the news are not always apparent to the readers. In fact, many sources go out of their way to hide any bias, often in very unsubtle ways. Many of us can quickly identify certain bias sources, but how quickly can we name the non-biased ones?

At this point, transparency could be seen as a way to unearth any potential bias. Yet often the information is passed along and its source hidden in the process. A non-biased source may be the result of a biased source being heavily edited. Does this mean it is no longer biased? Probably not, but it means that its creator has utilized their own critical thinking skills in an effort to eliminate a perceived bias.

This robs the consumer of this information of the ability to do the same. It also allows the consumer to be exploited. Our trust of Internet sources is often not based on proof, but hunches and feelings. We want confirmation, not confrontation, of our beliefs. Yet, in the face of adversity is exactly where we should be looking for the truth.

For example, if we distrust a politician, information that confirms this will be more easily believed. Contradictory content will be inherently dismissed and any stories confirming the politician’s trustworthiness will be met with skepticism. We will not vet the confirmation with the same thoroughness as the contradiction.

Ultimately, we have all been exploited by this glut of information. That is evident in where online we go daily for information. Our vetting of much of this information can be iffy at best and we all use the Internet as a personal sounding board. What we share online is added to a cacophony of voices, all with varying degrees of expertise. It takes a critical, and often disconnected, viewpoint to parse it all.

So, where do we start? The journey is different for everyone, yet it begins with being able to challenge our firmest beliefs. It culminates in not the truth, but in the source and our own comfort with its validity.