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Digital Education

Are you learning through the internet: How much information to consume ?

Apr 07, 2021

Entering the internet world can be compared with the light hitting a prism; you enter with a straightforward opinion about something and leave having gained all sorts of colorful ideas about the same thing. It is quite a cliché to say that it is essential to keep up with the on-goings of the world in this generation of technology and keep oneself informed about everything. But one must comprehend as to how much of this incessant load of knowledge you can perceive and how much you can not.

More than 63 percent of the world population logs on to the internet every day. Due to the global pandemic, internet use has grown to 70 percent more in 2020 as compared to 2019. With schools as well as businesses switching to e-platforms, this is not as startling of an increment but it still is quite substantial. All generations and age groups are logging on to the interweb for various purposes, whether it is for research, entertainment, or shopping. But how often does one come across false or misleading information and how often does one recognize it? Media like television, radio, or even print put in a rigorous amount of effort into the authenticity of the information they broadcast but the same cannot be said for online platforms. Especially the older generations fall prey to the news with clickbait and fallacious claims. On more than one occasion, a parent or an elderly family member has sent me links to some useless article or YouTube video claiming the solution to impossible things. According to a survey conducted by statista.com in 2018, 14 percent of people admitted that they shared a fake news story online despite knowing it was false. Fake information will continue to gain attention as long as people are willing to share it. Rumors do spread like wildfire. Similar cases can be seen with advertisements that present grand, unrealistic standards about products that are extremely deceptive towards consumers and can often land the companies a lawsuit. With the internet being available to every age group, children and adolescents are exposed to more sensitive information and phenomenon like scams, predators, viruses et cetera. 

Surfing the internet for information is a slippery slope, we start off looking for something small and end up diving in a sea of multiple tabs on our browser making us susceptible to feeling like we do not know enough. This feeling of ambiguity can also result in someone plunging further into the vicious circle of the internet. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but learning something on the internet from time to time can be deficient and detrimental. Like trying to diagnose oneself with the guidance of Web MD; it can be accurate from time to time but can also dim the possibility of one actually going to the doctor to get their diagnosis. 

We cannot describe the abundant information available on the internet as a malicious matter. On the contrary, the internet is a utilitarian resource that everyone has access to. But like everything else in the world, the internet has its own limitations. Rather than entirely abstaining from the use of the internet to avoid running into fallacious content or overindulgence, one can find other ways to steer clear of this futile knowledge. To keep oneself safe from misinformation is getting tougher and tougher with the increase in the amount of online media, doctored information, and the use of AI. The gullible nature of humans makes it very likely for them to fall for false information wreaking chaos all through media platforms with debates and panic. This is especially becoming a huge issue for publishers and offline platforms as online platforms have a quicker and bigger reach. The credibility of journalists is dwindling and the technology alone will not be able to improve the information environment. There is a raging need for better funding and support towards journalism. The digital age is not exactly compatible with journalism of the general quality of the news media in the late 20th century, which solely focused on serving the public with information that helped to create a well-informed citizenry. In a world where marketers and journalists are under pressure to generate ‘clicks’ to increase advertising revenue, it is logical to say that the information is directed to generate reach rather than extending valid material. Another important aspect to be taken into consideration, especially in Nepal is the need for efforts by the government to imbue its citizens with better information literacy skills. This is essential for all ages, everywhere. Our brains are not wired to keep up with the widespread information scams and mass manipulation which can simply lead humans to give up on being informed down the line.  

The only way we can reduce the likeliness of people falling for misinformation is by ensuring they do not fall for it. Indulging in misinformation can be considered more of a social problem than a technical one. Just like our emails are now automatically classified into spam and non-spam, we can only hope the information available online can be filtered similarly. But the prospect of this is not as effective as an effort towards educating the public in identifying fake news and propaganda.  

 

In the fullness of time, there is nothing such as “overconsumption” of information. It is merely a concept, a hypothesis if you will. The dilemma in question is not how much information to be consumed as much as it is what information to be consumed. The growing need of people to process and communicate information is a prerequisite these days. For that reason, we must not quantify our knowledge consumption but choose the correct knowledge to consume instead.  

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