Hunger for Truth

The Internet has developed into a revolutionary communication tool. It gives us the ability to find information from anywhere in the world. With the growth of social media it has allowed us to communicate and interact easier. Its popularity has driven traditional media forms, such as newspapers and magazines to the brink of extinction as more and more people utilize the internet not just on there computers but on their smart phones and tablets. Its explosive growth has given us access to more information and let us be the gatekeepers of what stories and news sources we want to read from. Our hunger for truth has given us access to more information but now our own biases are limiting the spectrum of opinions to various niche media.

The Old Media Guard relayed information to us with very little interaction between us and them. There were very fewer news sources and information was only given to us on set schedules. Television News gave us news at specific times from a “trusted anchor” whose deep baritone voice added legitimacy to their newscast. If we wanted to gain more insight we had to wait till the next morning for your local newspaper. A major reason why people were turned off to these news sources was the structure behind their deliveries. They designed the schedule and we had to follow it or we would miss our chance to be informed.

With the birth of the Internet we had the opportunity to choose when we wanted to read and what we wanted to read. Mainly due to this new freedom many started to question media biases and their motives. With the decline of mainstream media millions of niche Internet media sources popped up. We had the choice to choose what sites we wanted to read and which we would ignore. The amount of ways we access information is remarkable considering 15 years ago we were just limited to newsprint, the radio, and TV.  Information has become readily available and also has made us more selective of what we read.

As websites become more specialized we could visit sites that target our own biases. Politically, both the left and the right have sites geared towards these biases. Here issues you don’t care about are not reported and your oppponents are ridiculed. In the US, Internet reading habits have transferred directly to cable news.   The top two news networks are Fox News (right-wing) and MSNBC (left-wing) while CNN who tries to be neutral is third because they haven’t aligned themselves with a side which makes them “boring”. Polarizing websites have not expanded our knowledge but have made our society more divisive. More quantity of information has not improved the quality of our news sources.  Wikileaks released thousands of leaked documents but very few actually visited to their website. Instead we learned about wikileaks from the mainstream media. With more information available we are not receiving more accurate information. The rise of the internet has given us such new terms as “truthiness”.

Truthiness as defined on wikipedia, is a "truth" that a person claims to know intuitively "from the gut" without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts.

Our own personal desire not to look at the world objectively has given rise to truthiness. Stephen Colbert created this term, and said:

"Who's Britannica to tell that the Panama Canal was built in 1914? If I want to say that it was built in 1941, that's my right as an American".

Making snap judgments on our biases is irresponsible. In the US, over half of Republicans believe Obama wasn’t born there. The state of Hawaii said he was born there, there was a birth announcement in the newspaper the next day of after he was born but for some it just doesn’t feel right. We should not be so ignorant to accept that an idea is true just because it feels good. If we want our media to be objective, we need to be objective.

But is the challenge new? Not every book printed on the printing press was true, not every voice on radio or TV was telling the truth. Throughout civilization we’ve hungered for truth. We’ve continuously strived to find the truth and ideas that were proven not to be true disappeared. The Internet and Social Media are not providing us with ideas but simply are new technologies that are making us easier to share information. With these new tools established media organizations are going to disappear from their conventional forms on newsprint but they will be reborn in the new medium where we will need experts to evaluate the legitimacy of new sources. We have two choices, do we want to be objective like Socrates:

"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing."

Or like Baltasar Gracian.

“Better mad with the rest of the world than wise alone.”

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Collaborative vs Divisive Politics

Updated: March 17, 2011
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