A new Pew Research Center study offers some good news I’m not so sure about. Given everything the Internet is telling us 24/7, Pew was pleasantly surprised to find out that “the large majority of Americans do not feel that information overload is a problem for them.”
Just 20 percent of the people Pew talked to—that’s one in five—said they felt overloaded, down from 27 percent when Pew asked a decade ago. The information spigot certainly hasn’t been turned to low since then, so acclimatization to technology has apparently taken place. A confirmation of this is the Pew finding that the Americans who own the most information-spewing devices tend to be the ones most nonchalant about them: “Those who are more likely to feel information overload have less technology and are poorer, less well-educated and older.”
In my view, the most intriguing finding is buried deep in the study. Pew asked its sample audience how comfortable they felt sorting out information that it actually true from information that isn’t. The results:
80% say this statement describes them “very
well” (41%) or “somewhat well” (40%): “Most of the
time, it is easy for me to determine what information is trustworthy.”
Young adults and college graduates are especially likely to express positive feelings about navigating today’s information-rich world.
So that’s about one American in five telling Pew that most of the time it isn’t easy. But the group I’m more concerned about is the unmeasured number who don’t struggle with “fake news,” welcoming it instead as God’s triumph over Lucifer and the mainstream media. How many people who are certain, for example, that Hillary Clinton committed treason in the Middle East and is overseeing child sex slaves in a Washington, D.C., pizza parlor hail social media as the blessing that opened their eyes?
Political arguments I got into prior to the recent elections were marked by a near total lack of uncertainty by either party. We all had our own facts (mine none the stronger for being more factual). Does society’s rising comfort level with digital information tell us its power to inform us and delude us advance apace? More studies are needed.