Why Knowing More and Understanding Less Is Now My Biggest Fear

At the risk of generalizing whoever is reading this, I’m simply going to make this about me. My feeling though, is that many of you will be able to relate.

This is my fear.

I’ve found that on my phone are a series of apps that are updated with information faster than I can click from one to the other, and then back again.

I’ve started to take note of my actions and realized that the average time an app is open is less than a minute, but that I visit it more frequently. This means that on the surface, I am aware of everything that is going on, but perhaps don’t fully understand what the information I might read means.

I’ve noticed that the websites and articles that are the most commonly read now are sites like BuzzFeed, Business Insider, and Reddit, not to mention the social classics like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and so on.

What many of these have in common, though, are lists. These lists allow the reader to get to the heart of the story in mere seconds with the ability to glaze over the rest of the content, knowing that they have the gist of the information in a small fraction of the time. After all, why would I read the supporting material when I’ve already got the point?

Further, why would I waste time on reading more material on something I have already digested when I could be reading and absorbing more information from another app or website that provides all new content in the thirty seconds it took me to “read” this article.

I wouldn’t. I don’t.

But why is this bad?

Because Donald Trump might be the next President of the United States.

Because I know that things are happening in the Middle East, but I don’t truly understand.

Because I know that T-Swift and Calvin Harris broke up and that she was kissing Tom Hiddleston… and that this article was the same length as the one I read to “learn” about the UK Referendum.  

Because the headline doesn’t tell the story.

Because I don’t really know the story at all.

We’re living in a world that is full of more noise than ever before. We have more information at our fingertips now than scholars did in the libraries of information they had access to only a few decades ago.

But is this a good thing?

Well, it can be, but only if we are responsible with it and truly empathetic and curious.

The question I now ask myself is whether I’m reading information to collect it, relay it, and use it to be perceived as the “smartest person in the room” (NO, DON’T DO THIS!), or if it is because I really want to know more about the situation and become truly educated about the happenings.

I’ve found that along with myself, many of my peers know a ton of information, but choose not to truly understand or dive into much of it. These near empty conversations about politics or global affairs have become frustrating, and will only continue to get worse.

We are, believe it or not, in the infancy of the internet and technology. Artificial intelligence is just being born and the Internet of Things will change the way we live more than we know.

15 years ago if I had told myself that I would have a ‘phone’ that gives me access to my investments, syncs my calendar on voice command, allows me to stream my favourite shows all while walking down Main street…I wouldn’t have believed myself. And that’s just it. We don’t know what we don’t know.

So as the world continues to get noisier, and as more information is available in ways we probably don’t understand yet, I ask myself if it is important to know more and understand less, or know less and understand more.

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