wash, rinse, repeat


Fact #1: U.S. Democrat Gabrielle Giffords was shot yesterday. Some commentators are linking the shooting in Tucson to violent language on multiple websites, at least one of which showed Giffords’ congressional district in the crosshairs of a gun.

Fact #2: Yesterday I read an article in The Atlantic about the cost of believing everything you find on the internet. The gullibility of the public has allowed radicals and reactionaries to succeed in smear campaigns against their targets, even when their accusations have been proven to be false, because the public loves sensational scandal and ignores the truth that is later uncovered.

Fact #3: I spent more than six hours yesterday reading news feeds and bookmarked blog posts, and catching up on the expected results of South Sudan’s referendum, participating in an online conversation about Saint John’s uptown, and reading about the advantage of planned spending over budgeting.

* * *

If I wanted to remain virtually connected at this rate, I would have to devote at least two hours per day to reading online, and that would be mostly scanning the headlines. No wonder it’s hard to separate facts from fiction and to get a balanced view of the world.

And, in case you haven’t noticed, much of the noise out there (in the virtual world) is recycled information, broken up into byte-sized pieces. Sometimes the information is whitewashed, sometimes it’s muddied. And it’s all thrown together into the great washing machine of the internet, socks and underwear, tourniquets and tennis shoes, the bleeding red bandana and the white silk shirt. The internet does not sort and weigh the information, it does not separate the world’s laundry into the sheep and the wolves.

So take care what you say online, even in jest. Check your temper at the door but do not check your brain. Take care in what you read, and especially what you believe and pass on for fact. It’s not just viruses that we need to guard against. Sadly, very little can be trusted. Everything must be washed, rinsed and hung to dry in the cool light of rational thought.

Photo taken on December 18, 2010


8 thoughts on “wash, rinse, repeat

  1. I think that’s very true. We’re flooded with information these days. And, it can get very hard, and very confusing, trying to pick out the worthwhile parts from the garbage out there.

    • Flooded, yes that’s it, Louise! I can’t read everything fast enough to keep up, and I’m good at skimming and synthesizing; it helps me understand why it’s so easy just to let other people tell you what to think. The other problem of course is that it becomes a time sink… I love to feel “connected” but I need to start spending my time more wisely.

  2. Sometimes the Internet feels like the world’s largest library, with all the books thrown out in a huge pile and in no order.

    People in general are more gullible than we tend to think, and more than we like to think tend to believe stuff just because it’s on the Internet (!).

    I had all the good reasons to think about this in the beginning of the web. When patients started bringing up all the info [that they weren’t able to process], on the Internet and hence believed to be true. The doctors, nowadays, must find themselves in a totally different situation than, say, fifteen years ago.

    It’s good and bad.

    When I don’t have anything else to do, I spend a tremendous amount of time online, but that’s because I want/like it.

    • Oh my, that must have been a nightmare working in a doctor’s office, Rebekah! Yet I totally understand the desire to have more information, and the medical profession has not always been good about communicating.

      I do enjoy browsing, gleaning and surfing online as well, but sometimes when you’re looking for “real” information, it can be a frustrating experience!

    • Yes, it is scary, Monica. Although I’m trying hard not to fall into the “society going to hell in a handbasket” frame of mind. I guess it’s just helpful to remember that the internet, like any tool, can be dangerous in the wrong hands.

  3. The internet is such a fabulous tool, I can’t imagine being without it for a second. But it sure is a major timewaster, if you let it be, and so much information is poor quality.

    I was a bit dubious about that ‘don’t record what you spend’ article. I think that is advice for Globe readers who tend not to be low income. I know when my kids were little and our budget was tight, I watched, and often recorded what happened to every cent. I budgeted very carefully and with clear priorities. I sure didn’t buy magazines and we didn’t eat out. It’s nice to have a bit more disposable income now and not need to keep close track. I’m sure many Globe readers are in that fortunate position.

    • Thanks for your comment on the Globe article, barefootheart. I agree with your point; obviously the readers are not strapped for money, but are trying to be responsible with what disposable income they do have. I found the concept interesting because I’m hopeless at keeping track of where the pennies go, yet I always have a clear idea of what money I have (or don’t have) in the bank. I guess it’s just as well I don’t have any children…!

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