Yesterday, I learned about the turmoil in Iran… from the blogosphere. Some have argued that the immediacy of news on this and other breaking topics is a sign that mainstream media has failed and online media—specifically “real time” components of online media—have triumphed. I believe such an assumption is not only dead wrong, but dangerous to society.
Today, I can get more information—and more importantly, more *verified* information—about the situation in Iran from mainstream media. And in a few days, I’ll no doubt be able to get some insightful background information, valuable context, and more-likely-accurate news from weekly magazines.
Some would argue… but Adam, don’t you want information right now? How can you wait a day or even a week to learn what’s going on?!?!?!?!?!!!!!!1
To that, I’d reply with the following question: Why do you value immediacy over depth, accuracy, and understanding? Or, better yet, what difference will it make in your life to know about the Iranian election mess one day sooner? Will you be able to change anything? Help anyone? What will you and the world lose by waiting a few more hours?
* * *
So why do I believe this increasing predilection towards immediacy is actually dangerous, and not just misguided?
- It’s pressuring news media and politicians to report, respond, and act before they have all the facts, before they’ve had a chance to digest what is correct and what is right. While I doubt that people with access to nukes won’t be relying on twitter “reporting” to make that crucial decision, I wouldn’t be surprised if we start seeing more and more decisions painfully botched due to a reliance upon “what’s happening right now.”
- While there’s a chicken and egg scenario here, I wouldn’t be surprised if push towards “real time” is further feeding and exacerbating society’s collective ADD, dulling our interests and abilities in long-term thinking and planning. What are people reading? What are they thinking about? If, as we’ve noticed, fewer and fewer people (including me) are taking the time to write (and listen) beyond soundbites, what does this mean for the peaceful progress of our society?
Yes, I know I’m sounding like your grumpy neighbor who perhaps just got on the net (via dialup). No, I don’t think my griping alone will make a whit of difference.
But perhaps if enough people say, well, ENOUGH!… immediacy != value, then perhaps the tide will start turning. Not gonna hold my breath, though.
P.S.—I realize that there IS value in real time. In the case of disasters (natural and manmade), services like Twitter have helped with the mobilization of protests and rescue efforts and so on. So for the citizens of Iran, I have no doubt that tweets may well have served as valuable inspiration and coordination. But this is not news, this is broadcasting. And for the rest of the world, I stand by my assertions that there was little value in seeing a flurry of micro-messages about events happening in other places of the world except as—and I hate to label it as such—entertainment. But unsurprisingly the impulse to be entertained, to be un-bored… is now clearly more powerful than the desire to be patiently enlightened.