I’ve probably said all this before, and to be honest, I’ll probably say it all again. But here it goes.
The internet is making us stupid.
“But the internet is a great learning tool! It makes the world a smaller place, bringing us closer to a global community!”
Well, you know how when you were in school there was always that one kid that would remind the teacher if she forgot to assign homework? Well, those people are on the internet, too.
You see, not long after Al Gore decided to share his invention with the public, websites became a thing. Before that, the internet had only been text on a screen. No cats, no naked women. But once websites came about, everybody wanted to make one. And thanks to their internet provider, or places like Geocities and Angelfire, they were able to make one. Oh, the web was full of animated gifs of fireworks, laughing skulls and flashing “Under construction!” signs, all backed by a midi file of “Kiss From A Rose” by Seal.
And before that were the chat rooms, which were real-time conversations, but they were mostly replaced by forums, which allowed you to wait and come up with the proper response to someone telling you you’re an idiot rather than panic and just type, “You are!”
Anyway, all of this gave the people a voice. And for the most part, that’s great. If you want to learn about all the Beanie Babies made in a certain year, you can probably find a website that’s dedicated to it and has all the information you’d ever want. Wanna know who the name of the actor who played the second cop to get shot on “In the Heat of the Night?” You can find it. Scientific, political, educational – if you want to know it, it’s probably out there, written by people who care about that topic and have their stuff together.
And then there are the homework people.
These are the people who should make us remember that just because you have a voice, it doesn’t mean others have to listen. Instead, like-minded people get together on the internet on websites, in forums, in chat rooms, and they echo their own ideas back to each other. And again, this would be fine if we would just leave them in their little hole in the corner of the internet. Let them discuss how global warming is crap because it’s cold outside, or how the earth is flat, or how vaccines cause aneurysms or whatever it is.
But we don’t do that. Somewhere along the line, someone decided it’d be a good idea to not only listen to these people, but to share what they were hearing. And I don’t mean like when you’re in public and you hear somebody fart – you elbow your buddy and say, “Ha ha! Did you hear that?” No, we give them airtime on television. We quote them in news stories. We run up the view count on their YouTube channels.
We give them legitimacy.
And that’s 100% our fault.
Why in the hell do we do that? If I’m reading a news story about an historic meeting of scientists in whatever country to discuss new breakthroughs in vaccines that may stop some horrible disease that kills millions of people a year, I don’t want to take the time to read about – much less read a quote from – some lunchlady who decided they know more than all of those scientists and doctors inside the meeting. And yeah, the celebrities, too. Remember when actors just acted? Jenny McCarthy is nice to look at, but boy, does she need to sit down and shut up. Same goes for Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Dennis Rodman…
You know what you get when you give everyone a voice? It’s one of my favorite words, and I don’t get to use it quite enough.
Cacophony. According to Dictionary.com, “Cacophony consists of harsh, often discordant sounds. These sounds are often meaningless and jumbled together.” And when cacophony happens, only those who yell the loudest are heard. That doesn’t make them right, not in the least. Just the loudest.
So the next time you’re watching the news, reading an article
in the newspaper on your iPad or whatever, take a second and look at what you’re being shown. Is it reliable stuff? If it’s about science, do the quotes come from someone who knows what they’re talking about? You know, like…hell, I don’t know, a scientist instead of a lawyer/pastor-turned-politician? If you go to the doctor and he runs a bunch of tests and says, “I think you have sarcoidosis,” you might say, “Well, I want a second opinion.” And then who would you go to? Another doctor? Or the soccer mom who always remembers to bring Kool-Aid to practice (but only if it’s sugar-free!)?
While I don’t quite agree with everything Timothy Leary had to say, I do agree with this: “Think for yourself.”
Because if you don’t, they’ll make you stupid.
You all have a good one.
Clyde O. Watson