Wednesday, April 12, 2017

I for Information

The Oxford English Dictionary defines information as fact, etymologically derived from the Latin informare, meaning 'formation of the mind'. 

See what I did there. I started by factually describing what information means, before even getting into the context of this post. I am a true consultant like that, I cannot make statements without reams and reams of data back-ups, footnotes and source references. For instance, I wouldn't say, "We live in times of rampant racism". I will hit google to find out trends in racism across the past few decades, with cuts by geographies and racial types, before making the statement, even if the statement does not cover any of the aforementioned data. 

I know - I have it easy thanks to the internet. Would I have done it in a different era when information was found in books and in libraries that couldn't be searched at the click of a button? I can't answer that question definitively because I don't have data about any avatar I may or may not have had in a different era.

But, then, should we really be thankful to the penetration of the internet in our lives? 

Sample this. For my parents, clicking photographs was a big deal. The Kodak was ceremoniously brought out on special occasions and out-of-town vacations, camera rolls refilled, photos clicked and developed, and placed in elaborate albums that were stowed away in the cupboard, only to be taken out for show and tell when guests came over and stayed for so long that conversation ran out of the house. It was difficult to figure out what movie, food type, book, author, city, actor etc. they liked unless someone had spent years knowing them and knew them very well. 

That's no longer the case. No one needs to pay us for information about ourselves, nor does anyone need to spend years befriending us and earning our trust. We are more than willing to supply it online, as profile data, page likes, photos and videos, and stupid tests that claim to tell us "Seven secrets about you", "Who are you in the fantasy world" and "Who will look out for you", amongst other things. Yes, guilty, I am addicted to those tests as well. And, only after I click through to the results do I wonder how much data about myself I gave away to get back results like "You are a saint. You were Mother Teresa in your previous life." Hell, two of the biggest storms last year - Brexit and Trump - were successful because of big data. Yes, big big big data about people's online presence and likes and dislikes helped fine tune and target campaigns that made Trump POTUS. 

That article has definitely made me wary of my increasing online presence. Not that it has had any meaningful effect, because, just like alcohol and drugs and cigarettes, social media is an addiction too. It might make sense to invest in and build a social media detox methodology, for that might be a big business in the years to come, campaigned and targeted with the use of big data, at the heaviest users of nametests and the biggest uploaders of cat videos.

P. S. This post is the ninth in the A-Z blogging challenge series for April. 

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