We consume a ridiculous amount of information every day.
Every second, every minute, every hour, our brains are learning something new about how the world works and, I think, in many ways, we’re better off for it. It means we’re able to talk intelligently about more subjects, and it means when we don’t know something about a given subject, we know where to find the information immediately.
The downside is thinking that because the information is available, we’re experts on any given subject.
The recent presidential election is a great example of this. Obviously the economy was a huge topic of discussion:
How do we deal with our deficit, and continue to make needed investments at home?
How do we create incentives to “put people back to work” in the USA?
How do we encourage businesses to “insource” instead of outsource?
All good questions. All worthy of intelligent discussion. But despite all of the reliable information available to us, most of these (extremely complex) topics were reduced to Internet memes and people’s opinions were thrown around as “fact” as they assumed, somehow, that because they read a few words that validated their point of view, they were suddenly experts on macroeconomic theory.
This doesn’t elevate the conversation.
As a reader, posting a link to an article on Gawker doesn’t mean you have any real authority on the basic tenets of the economy—or any other topic for that matter. It just means you’ve read and shared an article.
As for writers, I can’t think of many who actually set out to be “the authority” on a subject. Most are just hoping contribute to the discussion. To do nothing more than add their thoughts to the ever-growing canon of the Internet, and let them evolve as people build on and critique them for years to come.
The discussion is not elevated when you assume roles of authority on subjects you know nothing about. It’s not elevated when you pretend to have the right ideas, only to further an ideological agenda. And it’s not elevated when you’ve decided that you can’t or won’t pay attention to ideas that don’t fit said ideology.
The discussion is elevated when you realize that just because you have an opinion about something doesn’t mean you’re an authority on it. That we all have a lot to learn from one another. That the Internet is a great place to get new information when you need it, and a great place to deposit reliable, educated information or thoughts of your own to help move the conversation along.