Can information save us?
Posted by Simon Parke, 02 October 2017, 11.54am
The grand idea was grand.
And the grand idea was that the more data we receive - the more we all connected on the information highway - the better we’d all get along.
It’s a brave new world.
This was certainly Mark Zuckerberg’s vision for Facebook.
But beware the law of unintended consequences.
For sadly, experience shows that the opposite happens: the internet does not draw us together, but drives us apart.
The sheer volume of information on the social media platforms, a tidal wave we cannot begin to process, causes us to seek security in a particular way of thinking or believing.
I know a woman who, on hearing anything she doesn’t wish to hear, puts her hands over her ears and says, ‘Shit, shit, shit!’
It sounds ridiculous but maybe we all do this in a way.
In the hail storm of information, we find refuge behind a rock…and it doesn’t much matter which one.
In search of security, a natural enough desire, ‘confirmation bias’ comes into play.
This is when we seek out the sources that will agree with us, that will link us with other like-minded people, and enable us to live inside a bubble of perceived
So rather than drawing us together in a world-wide family of understanding, the internet drives us apart, drives us down different bolt-holes… it separates rather than
Something similar happened in the 16th century, of course, when the printing press suddenly made information available in a manner never conceived before.
Perhaps Luther imagined everyone would come together around the printed word of God, available now to them in their own homes, and in their own language.
Amazing! Truly, they were living the dream.
But there was no coming together in this information flood; just splintering and endlessly destructive division and prejudice.
In the silence of the heart, there can be union; but not in information.
Information is a head experience; and the head – a hotbed of terror, anxiety and negativity – is not the highway to union.
If we are to greet others, and indeed ourselves, we may need to step off the information highway for a moment.
There is better land beyond.