I was inspired to write this post by this video. On the internet, we are surrounded by entertainment and misinformation, more than we are by factual content. Most content is made simply to get engagement, and to show ads, rather than to inform. This is obviously very detrimental to the internet, to society, and to the truth.

Before the internet, people got their information from books, from libraries, from physical encyclopedias. This meant that information was verified to be correct, since not just anyone could sell their books everywhere. But, it is also meant that you couldn’t get information about everything, in real time.

Nowadays, anyone can post anything online. Wikipedia is the most notable example of an open encyclopedia, editable by anyone. It is an invaluable source of knowledge, and the information contained within it comes from sources, which you can verify, and which other editors review as well.

Unfortunately, not all platforms have strict rules about misinformation. Most social media will let anyone upload just about whatever they want, despite the fact that the information contained in those posts may be completely false, and even dangerous. Even news has been turned into entertainment, and many sources simply report irrelevant, even false news, simply to attract engagement.

Obviously I am not saying that platforms or the government should be able to censor whatever they want, by claiming it’s misinformation, but there are clear cut cases where the promotion of known misinformation on the internet has led to severe societal effects, such as the misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic that was spread all over the internet, and led to excess deaths, especially in the US.

Being bombarded with a constant stream of misinformation also leads society to become dumber as a whole. Even on an individual level, if you can’t differentiate between what is true, and what is not, perhaps you may even start believing falsehoods you have seen everywhere on the internet.

The evolution of the internet into basically just a large repository of short videos, photos, and little snippets of text, has also undoubtedly had an effect on attention spans, and as a result, people have less of an interest in reading books, or longer articles, rather than just watching a video or reading a headline.

Personally, I can attest how this an issue even for myself. Despite how much I’d like to read more books, it feels like a daunting task compared to simply turning on a video and doing no mental effort to receive all the information in the content.

Society needs to value books, to value the truth, and to value knowledge. As Isaac Assimov once said: There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge”.