If there are future generations around to remember ours – given our proclivity for environmental destruction and blind faith in science and technology created by fallible humans – we may be recalled none too kindly.
Examining our present civilization with the blessing of hindsight, ours may be recalled as the era in which humanity abandoned any pretense of sober judgement in favour of leaping to conclusions.
Machines may not do everything for us, but it cannot be denied that they are setting our societal metronome. In an age when labour-saving devices were supposed to grant us more leisure time, we are more stressed than ever, pursuing an ever-increasing menu of options to click on, bombarded with a barrage of baffling information.
In our culturally-induced attention deficit disorder, it seems, we barely have time to read the information before us, let alone digest it, mull its significance and reach reasoned decisions about it.
We, as the newspaper industry, are supposed to offer help by sifting the information, examining facts, considering sources – separating the wheat from the chaff. In spite of the technology-driven tempos imposed on us, too, it’s a service to readers we still strive to provide.
But all over social-media posts are being shared and commented on without careful evaluation. And the responses, too, are hasty. “Where is that?” “Why is it happening?” “Who permitted this?” – questions that, a further read would reveal, have already been answered. Too often, it appears, people have only read the headline without bothering to read the story.
Not only are we leaping to conclusions, we are leaping to judgments bereft of reason and wisdom.
The negativity and hatefulness of online discourse has long been noted, as anonymous commentators condemn without consideration or even comprehension.
There are many who seek, for whatever reasons, to fan the flames of our outrage. Sometimes our outrage is well justified and sometimes it is misplaced, prompted by out-of-context sound bites, half-truths and sophisticated spin.
In the news industry, we are adjured to seek all sides of a story, to examine the incontrovertible facts, and always consider the source of the information. Wherever we get our information from, it behooves us to slow the tempo a little, and resist the temptation to click too fast – whether leaping ahead to a new page, or hitting send on an ill-formed opinion.
We must beware that we are not part of this era’s growing judgement deficit – lest we be judged for it.