Internet is best friend, worst enemy of news

This is a new era in our shared history. Simply put, the Internet is the best and worst thing that has ever been invented in human history. Feel like that is hyperbole? It’s not. The most powerful thing in the world is sitting in the palm of your hand, and it can be manipulated to overthrow governments, kill someone’s character, and track the movements of everything and everyone. Not all of that is bad, either.

There has been no era in history where we’ve been able to disseminate information more quickly than today. Internet speeds are better, more people have access, and that makes getting news out to people so much easier.

Tyrannical dictators have been overthrown with nothing but pure, unadulterated information at high speeds going to lots of people all at once. I use the same technology to set up my fantasy football draft.

That power is incredible and vast, but with that great power comes great responsibility. Thanks for reminding us of that, Uncle Ben. If you don’t get that reference, just Google it. The Internet can tell you anything, and isn’t that the point?

Yes, the Internet can tell you anything and often times that anything doesn’t have to be accurate, true, or even plausible.

In an age of “Fake News” and memes (every time I write “meme,” I want to kill my Facebook, move into a bunker, and never look back) that can be twisted to say anything, we live not just in a new era in our shared history but potentially the most important one ever.

Will we choose to be ignorant? Will we blindly accept facts? Will we shelter ourselves from differing opinions? Can we be better than what we have been over the last 15-years?

These are all questions we should be asking ourselves right now if we care about the future of this country and this world.

This comes to the forefront for me regularly due to my profession but more so when I interact with friends who say/share things that simply aren’t true.

Recently I had a friend—a college-educated, well-spoken, and generally a good person for society—tell me that she won’t trust the mainstream media anymore. Keep in mind: I am her friend…

“That is the same media that made Hitler ‘Time’s Man of the Year,’” she said.

That little statement, especially in Kansas, would probably have been met with a high five or a short agreement from a peer, in my observation. Unfortunately for her, I let her know that the “Time Person of the Year” has nothing to do with agreeing or disagreeing with anyone but rather is awarded to the person who affected our lives the most for the good or bad. It’s just a newsworthiness award, really.

Hitler was very newsworthy, wouldn’t you think?

The information, it seems, was taken without really thinking by my friend. She didn’t look up what the “Time Person of the Year” is or who it is awarded to, but she formulated an opinion about our entire industry through it. She just vomited something out that was purely inaccurate to a mass of people who may respect her.

That was never too scary when the town crazy person would stand on the corner talking conspiracies to anyone who would listen, but it was contained then, and now you can find yourself validated so quickly on the Internet.

There was a “Flat Earthers” conference in Charlotte this year. Yes, people in 2018 still think the world is flat, and they organized a conference to discuss such ideas. Well, isn’t that something that will throw you into depression instantly? Sorry. I swear there is a point to all of this, and it isn’t just to be depressing.

Where do you think these ideas are coming from? They aren’t coming from anywhere but this mass void of Internet space that anyone can throw stuff onto for $20 or so.

I sometimes think we are getting dumber as a society. We are actively and willingly getting less educated and less motivated to seek real answers through debate and conversation rather retreating to our own views filtered through only people and things we like—largely online.

Regularly I am told by people that they don’t read the newspaper (local news site, who cares) as easily as if I asked them if they liked mayo or not.

Before you go wondering if this is just some old man complaining about how things used to be, realize I am a ripe 31 years old, lived through the evolution of the Internet, and remember life without my computer at the same time.

I may not have all the experience in the world, but what I do have is an observational thought process, and what I observe is scary, real scary.

Now, I also understand I am largely preaching to a choir on this opinion page. Most people who take a newspaper not only care about their community, they actively want to know what is going on so they can take action on what is reported. They know the difference between news and opinion.

Then, some of you just hate read us, and that is OK, too. Your money cashes the same as everyone else’s, and I appreciate the fact that you seek out opinions you don’t always love, as it probably, at bare minimum, makes you think.

This newspaper has been criticized for everything from being too conservative to being a bastion for socialism. That tells me we try to keep it balanced on the opinion page for the most part.

So, if I am preaching to a choir of well-balanced reading folks, what is the point of all of this?

I am asking you to be nice but confront bad information. The only way to get people to think is to get them to understand that when they share false information, they are part of a very large problem.

Don’t scream at people on Facebook. That isn’t healthy, and I don’t recommend it.

Just do your best to educate folks—if that be your children, aunts and uncles, parents, or whatever. Just ask them to think about what they said and know where it came from. Did they vet the information they just shared unwittingly?

The only thing to stop a bad sharer of information is a good sharer of information. I think I heard something like that somewhere.

-Joey Young is the owner and publisher of Newton Now