One thing my generation is known for is that we are often blissfully unaware of the news. If we actually are aware of the news, we get accused of creating our own “Daily Me” news line-up, which is self-directed and limited to our favorite topics (you can actually create your own newspaper at Dailyme.com).
Traditional news formats like the newspaper or TV expose you to events you have no interest in; by contrast, the internet allows you to actively control the kinds of news stories you engage. True, there is still room for limited spontaneity–e.g., forced ads at the start of Youtube clips, side-bar adverts, etc.–but generally the internet forces you to actively choose the news you will look at based on your preferences alone.
But its not just user-choice that limits what kind of news you are exposed to. The reason why the internet is almost completely free, besides the rather small monthly fees you pay to access it, is advertising. Since advertising is the engine which drives internet content, advertising wants users to be exposed to information that is extremely personalized. For example, we all know why we see different Facebook pages, since Facebook is based on our personal interests. After all, we choose our friends, and we can even choose the kinds of ads we will see!
But this is not limited to Facebook. According to a fascinating Youtube clip called “Facebook and Google / Secret Revealed“, from the trustworthy non-profit “Ted“, Google is also guilty of what has been aptly termed the “algorithmic editing of the web.” For example, even if you aren’t logged into your Google account, there are as many as “57 signals that Google looks at, such as, what kind of computer you are on, what kind of browser you are on, your location, etc.” So , if you and I search for the exact same search item at the same moment, we will get different results–there is no such thing as a “standard Google anymore”!
This applies to news companies too, since all the major news companies are “flirting with the personalization of the web.” And consequently, when it comes to news, the problem of the “Daily Me” syndrome is being exponentially amplified. The problem is best summed up in this quote from the same Ted presentation: “the internet is showing us what we think we want to see, but not necessarily what we need to see.”
As Christians, we must strive to become like the sons of Issachar in 1 Chronicles 12:32, “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” They were leaders who saw what was important in their world. How can we do this well when we are adrift in a never-ending ocean of information, guided only by the compass of self-interest and blown to-and-fro by the corporate-driven currents of self-editing algorithms?
So far, my best answer for becoming like Issachar’s sons is to point them to Al Mohler’s week-day podcast called “The Briefing.” Although its US-centric, I find it incredibly interesting, as well as helpful for guiding my prayer-life and expanding my Christian worldview!
If anyone knows of a comparable Canadian podcast or similar resource, please comment.