Friday, December 23, 2016

Reflections on life in a post-truth world

Photo courtesy of  DTTSP
There has been a lot of discussion as of late about fake news; how it has evolved from harmless site on sites like The Onion to something that has an increasing impact on our life. It has reached the point where social media sites like Facebook have launched an effort to combat the spread of fake news on its pages.

This proliferation of fake news, misinformation, and misinterpreted data has caused some to refer to our modern age as the "post-truth era." The extent to which this has become embedded in modern life was perhaps best exemplified when the editors of the Oxford English Dictionary named "post-truth" as their word of the year for 2016.

All of this makes me wonder more and more about how we got to where we are.

How did this become the so-called post-truth era?

How did we get here? How can we function in this type of an environment? How can we get back to a world where the truth actually matters?

I won't pretend to have all of the answers to this one. I will, however, mention that this phenomenon is not a new.

C.H. Spurgeon
Back in 1859, the British author and pastor C.H. Spurgeon published a compilation of his sermons in a book entitled Gems from Spurgeon. In this opus, he observed, "A lie will go round the world while the truth is pulling its boots on."

A lie will go round the world while the truth is still pulling its boots on. There's a lot of truth in that simple sentence, I believe.

In my opinion, what we now refer to as the post-truth era is merely the logical evolution of what Spurgeon opined about 157 years ago.

In Spurgeon's time, the telegraph was still a relatively new invention. Information could move vast distances in a short period of time. However, it was nothing like what we see today with the internet.

In the modern era, any liar with an internet connection can blast his or her misinformation around the world with a speed that Spurgeon could never have dreamed of. Plus, those lies can be shared with much less effort that it would take one to write a letter or send a telegram. Meanwhile, it still takes the truth the same amount of time to put its proverbial boots on.

I won't pretend to have a solution for the challenges of living in a post-truth world. I simply do not have such an answer to these questions.

I do, however, take a certain amount of comfort in knowing that other great individuals have muddled through similar challenges. Until I have an epiphany as to how to best live in a post-truth world, I invite anyone with a better idea to leave a comment below.

Editor's note: This post is a part of this blog's semi-regular Friday Focus series, which endeavors to highlight news and opinions that, in my opinion, don't get as much attention as they deserve.

No comments: