Like most Americans, I skim the headlines every morning catching up on news of elections, big-box retailer expansions, and social media crises. But recently, I’ve begun to notice something else making front page news, stories like Human DNA in Hotdogs, and Man kills friend who turned into zombie. So have American morals and ethics gone significantly downhill? Maybe. But more likely is the concept that humans are now being bombarded with more information than ever before, close to 174 newspapers worth of data per day. In short, we can retain more information at a faster rate than ever before.
Thirty years ago, we mainly relied on print dailies for our morning news blitz. Only the most interesting, compelling, and most importantly, relevant news stories made it to our eyes.
Sure, someone may have put a 911 dispatcher on hold to complete a drug deal, but it likely didn’t make the papers, so we probably didn’t know about it. Just prior to writing this, I read about Hilary Clinton’s birthday, that the world’s biggest storm in history has hit, and that a swearing Chewbacca was arrested by police, all on the same page. More interestingly, I’ve retained this information.
A recent article from UC San Diego suggests that in “media time,” there are more than 24 hours in a day. As the number of simultaneously consumed media grows, some content becomes “secondary.” We’re now able to listen to a song while we read a recipe, skim the news headlines, and talk to a friend on Facetime. We’re essentially consuming hours worth of media in only a few minutes.
So why aren’t we becoming significantly more intelligent? Unfortunately, it turns out a lot of the extra information we’re absorbing is junk: advertisements, social media drama, reality TV, and, of course, the “stupid news.” The Internet has enabled us to “make room” for ideas, stories, and facts for which we otherwise would have no interest or need.
The influx of information available to us has affected the way we think, they way we catalog information in our brain, and perhaps most notably, our attention spans. So, is the Internet making us stupid? Have our morals gone down the drain? I wouldn’t go that far. But it’s a good idea to monitor your media consumption to ensure you’re not drowning out truly important news for more passive and entertaining media.