The internet has put the world’s information at people’s fingertips and in their pockets. Anyone, almost anywhere can instantly find news, research and other information on topics that once used to be hidden away in libraries and encyclopedias.
Despite that increased access, people’s attention spans haven’t grown to consume that information.
Much of the news has been boiled down to tweets and headlines, with people not venturing much past a sentence or two of information on nuanced topics that carry with them serious impacts on society.
Finding evidence of that isn’t difficult. Take a look at our Facebook page this week. Our editorials on both the impeachment inquiry and the climate protests solicited strongly opinionated comments, but what many of them lacked was context.
Many echoed talking points that might seem more at home coming from a broadcaster on MSNBC or Fox News, illustrating commenters’ already established opinions.
This isn’t limited to these two stories. Dive into the comments on many stories around the web and you will find references to “snowflakes” and slanderous comments coming from left, right and everything in between. There’s little room for thought.
Many of the comments on the story regarding the impeachment inquiry of President Donald’s Trump’s actions focused on partisan stances from the editorial board and how they contrast from those that were held by those running The Facts in the late 1990s.
The authors of those comments obviously didn’t make it very far into the editorial, or else they would have found criticisms of Nancy Pelosi and Lindsey Graham for their switching of stances regarding presidential impeachments. There was no advocacy for an impeachment or attempt to divide readers (and a newspaper does not have to appeal to TV ratings, as some alleged).
The point of editorials is not to inflame — though we certainly welcome disagreement — but to create reasoned and informed discussion. For that to happen, though, commenters must first actually read the item to which they’re responding — someone pointing out how they shouldn’t have to pay to read a story before commenting on it anyway is a dead giveaway, but not the only one. It also requires more than reflexively parroting the thoughts of others they heard from a blaring TV set.