Irony of the Information Age

We have instant access to so much information. Instead of making us more knowledgeable and informed, it can often have the opposite effect. There’s too much available, and too many things of dubious quality. And it’s too easy for false information to go “viral” polluting news streams in a matter of seconds.

It’s easier than ever to access information about anything, but harder to trust the quality of the sources, or to figure out what’s relevant. Searching Google with just a few words, for example, often yields millions of results, more than anyone could possibly go through. And yet, most people will never go past the first page, relying on the advertisements and top 10 hits to find what they need.

We’re inundated with snazzy headlines, cool things to read, entertaining videos, all vying for a few seconds of our attention. The value of the information is often questionable, but that doesn’t deter us from watching, reading, and sharing these items of interest. We can now learn from our peers as well as reputable experts in a given field, making it that much harder to know who to trust.

I often read peer reviews when I’m thinking about purchasing something new, or trying a new restaurant to get a general sense of the item’s worthiness. However, even with peer reviews, I’m always evaluating the quality of the review and ratings to ascertain if a product is really a bad product, or if maybe a particular individual just couldn’t figure out how to use it thus resulting in a low rating.

Listicles are popular reading for many people.The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a listicle as “an article consisting of a series of items presented as a list” (source). They are often seen as a good way to ingest a few golden nuggets of quality information. If you’re like me and don’t have time to read dozens of articles about something, a listicle provides highlights in an easy to read, digestible format. However, I can never be sure how many items were looked at to produce the listicle, what criteria was used or how extensive the search process was. Unless I’m reading listicles from a reputable source, I’m always curious to know what didn’t make the list, and why it was eliminated.

We live in the information age, but if the quality declines as the quantity increases, is that a benefit for us?




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