I have been counting an average of 30 articles that make it to my ‘Read it Later’ every day. When I finally sit in the bus, I read all of them! I have also convinced myself that Sundays were made for Google Reader and Read it Later. It is when I consume all this information that I have been curating all week. Every second, someone puts up a new tweet, a new blogpost, a new Facebook post, a new … and as they come, I consume them. Sometimes, I feel a need to react to each one of them as well. There is too much data coming in. This consumption has over time made my private ‘knowledge’ vulnerable (I think), and day by day, I feel less and less of myself and more of what I have been consuming.
I had this conversation with friends after one of us spoke of this TED talk. It left me wondering about how much of me is me. In this age when there are too many people saying things on social networks and the Internet at large, it is easy for us to become puppets, given the basic drive to know things so that we can be a part of ‘the conversation’.
A lot of people have written about this, and it really does get you scared for a minute. What if we are just factory-made? What if what we call reality is not really what it is, and we only know a quarter of the truth? What is truth even? A book by Eli Pariser, The Filter Bubble holds the argument that everything is filtered for us by an algorithm that ‘chooses what is best for us’. Scary! I cannot go into the technicalities of the whole argument, but here is my main worry- that I do not know reality. Not at all. Not when the internet is my sole source of information and my map, and it is possibly feeding me a skewed picture of reality. Just what it wants me to see. Eli Pariser puts it this way in summary: When technology’s job is to show you the world, it ends up sitting between you and reality, like a camera lens.
But they say we need to filter what we consume- have a sane sense of discernment. It is easy to say, but hard to do when you think about it. They say that knowledge is controlled by our own experiences. And that how we think about things, how we generally act is a product of these experiences. Right now, most of our experiences are on the internet. And what most of us currently have is paralyzed discernment. It isn’t so easy to decide what works for us and rubbish what doesn’t at the current state of overload. Or maybe that is just an excuse.