Once upon a time we agreed on the truth.
We read the same newspapers, watched the same television programs, and discussed the same issues. While we didn’t always share the same belief systems, we agreed on a common understanding of what made the world tick.
Then came the internet, a virtually limitless source of information, equal parts useful and chaotic. Suddenly we had infinite amounts of media at our fingertips providing divergent points of view. While some were more accurate than others, all were vying for our attention.
The internet began to consume our lives, disconnecting us from the nuances of personal connection in favor of soundbites and click bait.
With no clear authority online, we grew more leery of the institutions governing the country and the world. Truth became confusing.
We became hooked on platforms powered by algorithms that reward the kind of sensational content that feeds on our emotions. After all, if we’re angry all the time, we’ll keep clicking.
Those same algorithms organized us into groups, or filter bubbles, and turned us against each other. Truth was no longer what was true. Truth was now whatever our side decided was true.
Firmly entrenched in our bubbles, we grew more angry and paranoid about the “other” side, trapped in binary thinking that failed to reflect the complexity of people, and the world. People who were once our neighbors, our friends, our family became mentally deranged snowflakes and fascists.
It appeared as if the world turned upside down. But the truth didn’t change, the internet just made us think it did.
For all the sensory stimulation that comes with arguing on the internet, it eventually gets lonely in the rabbit hole, but doesn’t have to be this way.
We can undo the harmful effects of the internet by learning about the ways digital media are designed to manipulate and divide us and begin to recapture the truth.