The Dumbing Down of the Internet
Mar 19, 2014 | 8554 views | 0 0 comments | 52 52 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There was a time when one went to a reputable place called a Library and did research by consulting reputable sources about various topics. Students from high school and beyond were assigned topics, which they thoroughly researched, creating notes of their sources. Upon completing such research, students wrote reasonably well composed papers discussing their findings, citing the reliable sources they had found.

Sources were scrutinized to determine if they were considered of sufficient quality to warrant their use to support the matters they discussed. Use of substandard sources was a basis for work being graded less than stellar.

The Internet, with its various search engines, has changed all that. Now, anyone with a computer, a keyboard and Internet access can search and find “sources” for any topic imaginable. Earlier in its existence, the Internet produced much better sources for random subjects than it does now. In today’s world, the Internet searches are driven primarily by economic standing among listings, never quality of material cited. Consequently, many readers and researchers do not really understand the difference between a good source and some off the wall nonsense some random person published online.

There lies the rub. It appears from many online discussions on social media and message boards that many do not appreciate the difference between good sources and bad ones. Instead, it appears that many seek anything printed which agrees with their point of view. There’s a term for that. It’s called “confirmation bias.” Simply put, people tend to look for sources which support their point on view on their topic.

Whether the topic at hand is religion, politics, sports, or entertainment, people flock to sources which support the point of view they champion. We seek and find things that seem to support our position. Unfortunately, confirmation bias leads to the use of specious sources which would have been harshly dismissed in the pre-Internet era. No, the unsupported conclusions of Bryce writing a blog in Boise, Idaho cannot be used to support an argument.

Distinguishing between good and bad sources is one of the roles of education. Teachers teach the difference between good sources and questionable ones. At the college level, professors do likewise. But realistically, the general dumbing down of studious pursuits has rendered the typical writings at the high school and college level substandard compared to pre-Internet efforts.

Simply put, students are too often given good grades for writing papers which lack proper syntax, proper sources, and proper composition skills. Writing well is not given the priority it once was.

The Internet has made everyone an instant researcher. Bring up any topic, and smart phones will immediately be consulted for sources on the topic at hand. A perusal of the first located sources will become the Rosetta Stone for gleaning the meaning of the topic under discussion. This used to be called “the blind leading the blind.”

Certainly, there are peer reviewed materials which provide meaningful insights to the topics they cover, but those are seldom brought up by general search engines. The latter favor the sites which garner the most traffic, not the sites with produce the best sources. The answer to dumbing down is not smart phones, but smarter people.

© 2014, Jim “Pappy” Moore,

All Rights Reserved.

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