Truth, Human Nature and the Internet


Everyone wants to be right.

We humans yearn for validation. Bestowed our moral compass by our parents, teachers, religion, origin of birth, and ultimately our experiences, we move through life; sewing affiliations with those that share our viewpoint, accept our opinions, and smile back at us assuredly.

We live comfortably unchallenged and quite purposefully so. We get our news from either Fox or MSNBC and we surf internet sites that mirror our viewpoints. We drink from a river of information filtered specifically to our tastes and preferences. We rarely stray from our comfort zone.

Sure, liberals and conservatives cross enemy lines occasionally. Every-now-and-then we liberals turn to Fox news or listen to Rush Limbaugh or Glen Beck – but let’s be honest, we do so mainly to validate what we already believe, that Rush is an asshole and that Beck is a deranged mental case. I suspect that conservatives engage in similar excursions, switching from Fox News to give a listen to comrade Chris Mathews, while muttering under their breath what a Communist-Marxist-Pinko-Douche bag he is.

I used to think that free-flowing access to information would somehow lead to less polarization in society; that availability and factualness were cousins in a sense (pretty naive I know). In reality, unrestricted access to information has made us more polarized, more firmly ensconced in ideology, and (it seems to me) less willing to investigate even the possibility that we might be wrong – about anything.

It seems to me that people are more interested in having their feelings validated than searching for substantive truths that might lead them onto unfamiliar shores. And make no mistake, those who create and deliver the content take full advantage of this. Today when faced with information that is contrary to what we hold true, we have a penchant to disregard it, seeking shelter in pools of information that allow us to continue to believe what we believe, and deflect that uncomfortable feeling of cognitive dissonance.

In a way, truth has become a cottage industry –  and we are all the worse for it.

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