The Now/ledge

A Guide to the 'Now' Revolution in News / by Alan Soon

Is the internet really that bad for you?


Worries about information overload are apparently as old as information itself.

According to Vaughan Bell, a clinical and neuropsychologist at the Universidad de Antioquia, Colombia, and King’s College London, the alarm on information overload was sounded way back in — guess what — 1565.

He wrote in an article for Slate that the Swiss scientist Conrad Gessner commented almost five centuries ago about the overabundance of data, concluding it was “confusing and harmful” to the mind.

Hindsight, with a bit of humor, reveals that:

  • Socrates warned against writing because it would “create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they would not use their memories”
  • French statesman Malesherbes railed against getting news from the printed page as it socially isolated readers and detracted from getting news from the pulpit
  • In 1936, the music magazine Gramophone complained that radio (then called “wireless”) distracted children from their homework and disturbed the balance of excitable minds
  • Media historian Ellen Wartella noted how “opponents voiced concerns about how television might hurt radio, conversation, reading, and the patterns of family living.”
  • The always-on ‘now’ generation has its own problems, with Twitter and Facebook harming moral values, and of course, how could I forget — Facebook addiction ruining relationships.

    Perhaps the best one so far: How Facebook use may lead to cancer.

    I can’t wait for the next big media frenzy. Will the iPad be bad for your love life?

    Ultimately, the point here is that our approach to new media technologies — though not unjustified — have always been exaggerated. Take a deep breath. Understand what’s changing in society, and deal with it. You won’t be the last to complain about how the internet is changing lives.

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    Filed under: General

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