I'd like to preface this with saying I'm not a super big fan of the internet. While it's a great tool and places like Tildes exist, I'd posit that a vast majority of the internet is less utility and more waste of mental space for most people. How much information does the typical web page for different types of content offer? How much do we intend to absorb? How much do we actually absorb? Most people say it is a decreasing trend, the web page offers (in ELI5 fashion) three informations, we try to absorb two, we generally only get one.
I believe it's different now-a-days. The web page offers two, we intend to absorb one, but we end up with three informations. Modern internet journalism preys on our emotions, social media preys on our emotions. The authors of major internet outlets sensationalize everything. So we end up with:
- The information we are interested in.
- The superfluous information, often irrelevant, through content like advertisements, "related topics/articles/pages" and other people's comments (not always made in good faith or constructive).
- Our emotional reaction. This is something that while engineered by the content creators, only exists in our minds.
Like any good book, we pick up the content and when we put it down we walk away with more to think about than what was originally written. Except, what do we do when this concept is detrimental to societal development and our own health?
Then we think about the speed of information. What prompted this entire post for me was an article I was reading on CNN today, about the execution of Daniel Lewis Lee. This is not a man I have any sympathy for, I do not like him or any ideas he represented. A man convicted of killing three people and a self-proclaimed white supremacist was executed this morning.
I got into town this morning and read the article, it had been posted 10 minutes prior.
Mr. Lee was pronounced dead at 8:07AM ET. I read this article at about 6:30AM MT. Within 30 or so minutes of a man being killed for what the state claims is his crime, I was informed by an internet article. I am about 2000 miles away from where this man was killed.
I have been off the internet for quite some time, so I'm getting back into the groove a little bit. This hit me like a truck, had this occurred 3 months ago I don't think I would have flinched. What kind of world do we live in, where a ubiquitous monstrosity called the internet can so easily desensitize us to the fact that a human being was just killed by the state for their crimes?
I offer no sympathies for the man or his actions, I do not wish this to be a post about the death penalty but that is still a human being that was just killed. I argue not whether or not he should have been executed, I instead posit that our reactions as a society are a testament to how much empathy and humanity has been lost in the modern age. In the grand scheme of things, for everybody but the most intimately familiar and impacted people, this is just a headline. It will be forgotten in a few days, life will go on. I believe this is a direct consequence of the aforementioned information overload in association with emotionally driven content.
Is this the world we created? Is this how we want to live? In this society where the loss of one is equal to the loss of none? Even the loss of a distant many is inconsequential in the modern, desensitized age. I believe we as a people are numbed by our own creations, and I honestly don't know what we can do about it.