In a letter published in the LA Times today, journalist Brian Williams, inspired by Clooney’s “Good Night, Good Luck,” argues that our generation’s unprecedented ability to access incredible amounts of information incredibly quickly can have a surprising, negative effect: it can actually make us worse, rather than better, informed. Because we have such easy access to an absolutely ridiculous number of television channels, radio stations, newspapers, blogs, journals, magazines, etc., etc., we can limit our daily news to what we want our daily news to be. Take talk radio. “[It] removes the guesswork from the listening experience. Why not listen to someone who already agrees with you?” This is especially true when NOT doing so, say by watching the O’Reilly Factor, might produce a heart attack even in this skinny but awfully robust 23-year-old.
I’ve been thinking about one short paragraph all day:
“While we yearn for clarity and authenticity, we are awash in choices and distractions. Never before have there been so many tempting incentives not to pay attention to what’s important. We have created staggering, historic amounts of noise, all the while yearning for more substance. There’s never been more to watch — and yet the odds are slim that any two people in any given community are watching the same thing at any given time. These days our shared experience is the fact that none of us shares an experience with anyone else.”
Isn’t it strange that at a time when we could know more about the world than ever before, we can more easily opt not to? And isn’t it strange that in an era when it should be so easy for us to become better connected, we might actually be moving farther apart?