America’s toxic addiction to news is causing a dangerous divide across the country. The news business has become less about reporting facts and more about profits. We’re consuming more news than ever and we’re drowning in information, but starving for knowledge.
Dr. Neil Johnson, a Physicist who heads up the University of Miami’s Complexity interdisciplinary group, has found that when it comes to consuming news of any kind — real or fake — Americans are now descending into a state of extreme polarization. His research shows that the extremes on the left and right side of the political spectrum now vastly outnumber those Americans who fall into “the middle ground.”
Alarmingly, it seems that Americans could not care less if the news they digest is real or fake, as the act of ingesting news has become more important that accuracy and truth. Conservatives rush towards news programs and websites that they believe are the most accurate, while liberals do the same on their side of the spectrum. What we have as a result, are people who are only getting one side of the story and who come away believing that their views and sources are the correct/best/accurate ones, while the others are, well…not.
It’s Never Just Black and White
The problem with this dangerous trend is that we’re becoming a nation drowning in information and opinions, but devoid of factual knowledge.The CNN’s and Fox News’s of the world need to fill the air time, so they’ve made the “talking head” the new American hero — that pundit who blathers endlessly, pontificating their opinions, regardless of accuracy. Opinion is the key word here, because that is what a great deal of our “news” is these days — personal opinions. Disturbingly though, more and more Americans are lapping up these opinions and then spreading them as true, accurate, hard news. Is it? Nope. More often than not, it’s just one person’s personal views, with the occasional ‘factoid” mixed in to make it sound more legitimate.
Let Me Live in My Bubble
Compounding the problem is the Tech industry’s unhealthy need to create an algorithm for everything and everyone. Take Netflix for example — if you watch 2 or 3 movies with a similar theme, they assume that’s all you want to watch and take away your other choices. What if it was just that one day that I wanted to watch sophomoric comedies? Facebook and Twitter are notorious for doing this too — they’re covertly codifying and classifying us and then pushing what they think we want to see. If you’re a conservative or liberal, then most of what you’ll see are topics/news of that same nature. How is this a good thing, when the result is that we’re being forced into a bubble, based on their assumptions.
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” ― Albert Einstein
“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” ― George Bernard Shaw
“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.” ―Isaac Asimov
This intensifying polarization is a dangerous trend. We’re allowing ourselves to be bundled together into classifications and this takes away our freedom to be independent thinkers. But we need to ask ourselves this — what if those sources are so biased that they’re wrong? How can we possibly hope to grow and evolve if we’re so busy finding reasons to remain at odds with each other?
“When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.”― Winston S. Churchill
We know that our adversaries are taking full advantage of this polarization by promoting fake news and creating strife, so do we really need to make it any easier for them to divide us?
“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Until Americans realize the damage this polarization is causing, I don’t know if we’ll see much change. Collectively, I believe we need to admit the problem and then look at the causes and cure them. They say “the truth lies somewhere in the middle” and I believe this to be true. News should be about facts — proven, accurate facts, as best as they can be reported at the time. When we start interweaving opinions and even conspiracy theories into the news, we risk drowning in falsehoods.
We also need to consider that the “news” we’re being given today, seems solely focused on the trashy — while the they bombard us with salacious stories, wars, famine and other real news stories go unreported and thus, unnoticed — how can we allow that to continue?
“The closed mind is a disease. You need to have an open mind; otherwise life will just pass you by.” ― Danny Wallace
“If you cannot be open-minded, then you do not possess your ideas, your ideas possess you.” Bryant McGill
An open mind is absolutely vital to our own development, but also to our nation’s health and this means questioning, verifying and then concluding. How can this possibly happen, if we live in a bubble and only consume news and opinions that we believe match our own? How can we hope to make life more pleasant, productive, prosperous and positive, if we’re so busy seeking out ways to make our differences even more pronounced?
“The purpose of our life needs to be positive. We weren’t born with the purpose of causing trouble, harming others. For our life to be of value, I think we must develop basic good human qualities – warmth, kindness, compassion. Then our life becomes meaningful and more peaceful – happier.” ― Dalai Lama