Monday, April 14, 2008

Bad Information, False Realities, and Why Should I Read This?

This video is good for a laugh about what I am about to say. Take a look:

The amount of information out there in the world and online is enormous. For every topic there is to know about there are subtopics, links, and captions going on at the same time. A computer can multitask, but now a human is expected to do the same thing. The attention span of a viewer is supposed to be a lot faster. Everyday one is bombarded with advertisements, but the situation is even worse when people are bombarded with information that may end up being very trivial. I fear that this can cause anxiety problems because a person can feel he or she can not keep up. Somehow a way of keeping one’s life in proper balance must be taken.

I mention this because in the past I have had times where I tried to keep up with everything, and in the end it was just a waste of time. I am not just talking about being online and television, but I am talking about books, newspapers, and magazines in print too. I think the internet is the most obvious candidate for what I am talking about. First, if you are reading this you are online, but the main reason being the billions of websites, blogs, vlogs, message boards, etc. you have access too. Even if you narrow it down to the topics you care about there is still thousands of things you can spend your time with.

The thing to remember is the internet is accessed by people from all walks of life. This is good because it allows a certain level of freedom to explore and write or video aspects of things that interest you. The bad side is that not everything any particular person writes about is worth reading. This is a really strange thing about the internet, partly due to the anonymity one can have with an alias, that one can talk like they are an expert and may not have any authority in what they speak. As a hypothetical example, imagine an Albert Einstein still alive in the year 2008, under an alias, writing a message about his theory of relativity. Then someone who has never studied the theory, has had little education, but has an interest in science comes on and explains why Einstein is all wrong. Of course, theoretically, it is always possible a person like that could show Einstein’s theory is wrong, but in the real world this is not something that is taken too seriously.

Now imagine that this hypothetical person that thinks he or she has proved Einstein’s theory wrong creates a website, blog, etc dedicated to this. This person writes up hundreds of articles about this. We can not doubt the person has spent a lot of time in doing this, but at the end of the day is it really worth our time reading what this person has to say?

I admit that I do not spend my days reading too many blogs. I do some searches when I am in the mood, but there just is not enough time to read everything. Part of the reason I do not is because there is a lot of junk out there. A lot of them are cheap advertisements. On the other hand, it is like what I have written about above where people that really have not proven themselves start talking as if they are the authority in a topic. There are a lot people who write blogs online that do it for fun or have a humble attitude. Those I have no real problem with. Then there are those who are terribly obsessed with letting others think they are an expert. Ever read a really long rambling blog entry and then wonder, "Wait, what was the point of this? "
It gets really strange when people start fabricating and lying about themselves online. I have seen this happen a bunch of times. I do not want this to come across as a political cheap shot, but it does bring out a point I want to make. You may remember recently some statements Senator Clinton made about avoiding sniper fire in her Bosnia trip in 1996. As a factual statement, we know that never happened. This is not something unique when we examine the whole internet. There are people out there, for some reason, really like to tell stories that exaggerate and not give the whole story. I have even seen people make up more than one puppet account just so they can agree with themself. How do I know they were doing this? They were caught. There is some pride and ego building going on in those cases.

The internet, in all its various forms, can give a lot of bad and false information. It is almost like a person can create a false reality online. One might get the impression that some idea, product, etc. is very popular and mainstream by looking at some website or blog. There maybe a dozen people constantly writing messages about it back and forth on a message forum. I wonder how many hits the Flat Earth Society gets. Sometimes I tell others that I think the internet is where a lot of people go when no one in the real world takes them seriously. It is kind of like, “This journal will not publish my work. I will show them by posting all my research online and making a name for myself there!” Or, how about this, "I am really popular on the internet." Which has led to the "internet celebrity" which really makes me laugh. ;)

All the above are things that need to be kept in mind when you prioritize what is important about what you really need to know. There just is not enough time to read, watch, and listen to everything. If this is all anyone does they will have created an extremely unbalanced life. It will create anxiety about trying to keep up with a lot of stuff that probably is not worth the time anyways. Also, do not spend too much time on junk sites, articles, or books that lack that authority and the ability to provide good reasons whatever content is. The next entry I am doing regarding this will be about the approach I have taken on my own blog to avoid some of the traps I mentioned above.