Thanks for sharing this, Eric. I couldn’t agree more. I just wrote something similar a few days ago.
I’m a big fan of Walter Ong, who wrote Orality and Literacy. His students, Neil Postman and Marshall McLuhan, went on to write some of the foundational warnings for what media saturation and new technology could do to our culture.
I shudder to think what they’d have to say about us now. The Internet represents the emergence of a new communcative paradigm, akin to the switch between oral cultures and written cultures thousands of years ago. When that shift last happened, a lot of things that people took for granted changed completely.
Suddenly, you could go look something up in a book, so you didn’t have to take someone’s word for it. The burden of what was “true” changed. Stories were suddenly written down, so a “right” and “wrong” version of the story was possible. Before that, religious stories and even great epics like the Iliad were recited from memory and likely shifted slightly in the telling based on the audience and situation.
We’re not close to reckoning with the cultural changes brought about by the Internet, and the next wave of technologies, like VR, are going to further erode cultural understandings of behavior, truth and relationships.
I think we need to be having many more and much more public discussions of “right” and “wrong” in the digital age. I applaud your suggestions here.