It used to be we received news at our front doorstep in paper format. Through the broadcast waves of the radio before going to sleep. Eventually families would gather around the television to consume the news during the evening after dinner. What those have in common is there was a time period before one interacted with others outside the home. You had time to process, you had time to digest. Because of that, stories could take time to develop, as people were accustomed to a certain “speed” of sorts.
Something occurred a couple of decades ago; the rise of the information superhighway. It started with things like Wikipedia and message boards and only grew from there. What were once seen as status symbols are now ubiquitous; it’s more rare to see someone without a cellular phone, and even more unfathomable to consider that someone would not have an Internet connection.
The cellular phone is a miraculous invention, to the point where it has evolved past it’s original purpose, and I do not mean that in a technical sense. Rather, instead of being a phone, it’s become an extension of the self. At the minimum another human appendage, and most likely it’s become a distinct “sense” in the way that hearing and seeing is – in both cases it means that we can have rapid consumption of information in an instantaneous fashion. To those who grew up in a certain age, it was jarring to pivot from an analog world to a digital; and although society may now be proficient with the technology, we’re certainly not proficient in how we consume it.
The issue is that our processing speeds have not adapted to this turn of events, and is definitely not instantaneous. We haven’t adapted to the rapidity of how we consume media, and frankly, it shows. “Hot takes”, kneejerk reactions, we form snap opinions based on snap information. And of course, no one likes admitting they are wrong, so there can be a propensity to double down on these snap opinions. This has cascaded into a confluence of rapidity that has bred a society who lacks patience in terms of when they receive information and how they communicate their response to it, and feeds into the highly partisan and polarized world we see today.
Critically, especially in light of a global pandemic and several highly charged elections, It’s not just how we receive the news and information either, it’s the nature of the information itself. Several times information is being developed, yet there’s demand for it to be sent immediately. This can result in incomplete data being presented, or data that can be changed.
Which brings us specifically to the COVID19 pandemic, and how we consume information has impacted society’s view on the situation. A complaint I have seen is “the information has changed so much!”, “regulations have shifted!”, and so on. What has been largely forgotten is something that really should be constantly taught in schools and reinforced throughout one’s life; outside of a handful of “laws”, science is not static.
This is how science works; it’s a continual journey of discovery, continual tests. What you know for certain one day could be altered slightly *or* drastically the very next day based on the data at hand. This is how science *works*. We have forgotten this though, and have taken to looking at things not in a holistic fashion. We see “masks don’t work” and cling to it, and then when it is discovered “yes, masks do work” we do not adjust our thoughts based on the new information. We see something that fits one’s personal narrative, and that is what lands.
There’s a degree of irony in the last portion there because the reality is science is a cruel mistress. Science does not care about one’s worldview or the mental framework you use to view the world. You can believe with your whole heart that cyanide is safe to consume, and science will coldly slap you in the face with a stark message – it is not safe and you are going to die from it (note; please do not consume cyanide, it is fatal and I like people being alive).
None of this is to excuse poor leadership, which has certainly been exposed throughout the pandemic. If anything, poor leadership compounds the problems, because without social capital people will resort to fuelling their base instincts and thoughts – especially in the highly partisan environment we find ourselves in.
The pandemic has exposed society for what it is; impatient, unwavering. Unwilling. We receive the information and fail take the time to digest it, and fail to take into account that, yes, things can change based on the available data. And it definitely provides a degree of context for the lack of charity and care displayed by people across the ideological spectrum; it’s hard to be charitable when you can transmit your base instincts to hundreds of hordes of people in an instant.
Of course, I am by no means immune to any of what has been stated. As much as I try to remain unbiased and a centrist, I have Opinions. One of the unanticipated pieces of information I received after my assessment a couple of years ago is how slow my brain processes things; much like my Grandpa, I’m a “thinker”. Being Very Online affords me the chance to think, and being dyslexic means it takes time to write and proofread things. Plus, in my case being autistic and dyslexic, *words matter*, which is another post I will be making at another time. Offline…..is a different story, it takes considerable effort to keep quiet and think things through, even though that should be my default position.
So with all of this, a request. A personal request to anyone reading this to stop and reflect.
Take the time to consider your words before hitting “send”, “submit”, or “tweet”. Take the time to consume the news from multiple sources. Take the time to consider that stories could be still developing. Take the time to remember that it is good that “the science” can change, because it means further discoveries and knowledge. Take the time to consider that leaders are humans and prone to making mistakes.
And especially take the time to measure your words carefully and to be charitable.
I will be continuing to do this online, and attempt to be better at it offline.
Take the time.
Until next time, courage.