In this time of universal connectivity and full-duplex blathering, everyone has the same power to spout their opinions as everyone else, and you are never required to listen to an opinion different from your own. It’s been said a million times now – the internet has created a “news” environment where each person can tailor the news to his own needs, and the line between news and opinion has become blurred to the point of invisibility.
When you are only listening to others who are reinforcing what you already “know”, the chances of you being open to a contrary opinion are smaller than ever. The idea that anyone could ever convince anyone else of changing their mind on something is now perilously close to obsolete.
Of course everyone wants to believe they’re right and loves validation. I don’t think that’s anything new. What is new, though, is that now any individual, irrespective of their qualifications or motives, can broadcast their views with the same volume and on exactly the same platform, and using the same tools, as sources that had previously been regarded as authoritative. Everyone has the same capability of expanding their readership and has the same size potential audience.
Do you really have to read the New York Times when Stewie Generis is sitting right over here with all the facts you’d ever want? The same number of mouse clicks is needed to get my view as theirs. I could use the same fonts and layout if I wanted and even the same “sources”. And why should you care what Maureen Dowd thinks more than what Stewie thinks?
The other day I read a question from someone asking the internet how to deal with family arguments over the holidays. Their family, clearly Trump supporters, apparently wouldn’t stop trying to change their mind about the implications of the election. The question said,
“My family thinks we are hysterical/worried over nothing, that we don’t understand some piece of the puzzle, or that they have “heard” differently than what we know to be true. The most generous interpretation of their approach is that it is condescending, but that ignores that most of their arguments are also objectively incorrect. They will not accept anything as fact that they do not already believe to be true, and they are not interested/able to discern reputable sources from nonsense.”
I thought this expressed the problem very well. How can you change someone’s mind when they can’t tell the difference between reputable sources and nonsense? And, through this looking glass, aren’t they thinking the same of you?
I’ve made the point before that the internet devalues knowledge. No one is smarter than anyone else. No knowledge needs to be acquired or retained, since all knowledge can be retrieved with the click of a mouse or tap on a screen. This implies further that wisdom is equally devalued and so are facts, or “truth”, if you prefer. Depending on where your search takes you, anything might be true and everything is as true as everything else.