Information is everywhere, and it is so easy to get wrapped up in it and forget about where it comes from or what it means. Information is a tool that is vital to any society, whether it be through iPhone apps, newspapers or word-of-mouth. But there is something to be said for the new threats that information introduces to society.
Information technology has reached a point where transmission of pictures, video and communication are nearly instantaneous and practically free. Information security has not kept up with this pace, and thus we face threats on our very identities because protection processes become antiquated as soon as one of thousands of hackers develops a way to break down the security measures designed to protect us.
In addition to the threats we face from known enemies, we also face the threat of misinformation, which has become a rampant problem and is even harder to instantly identify. At this point, any piece of information received must be thoroughly scrutinized: who sent it and how did they come about it are two important questions, and many times independent verification proves it to be false.
There is also the issue of factually true news that gets violently blown out of proportion. Think about the media response to balloon boy; virtually every news station in America broadcast the “breaking news” of a balloon floating across the Midwest. Or more recently about the congregation threatening to burn the Quran on 9/11; this man with a congregation of only 50 people managed to dominate the news for nearly 2 weeks. Perhaps we should have ignored him.
The next threat we face in information is the irresponsible portrayal of otherwise harmless facts in order to create mass panic, and the news agency that breaks this news will get the highest ratings. It essentially creates a competition to take something fairly benign and portray it as negatively as possible. This can be done easily through taking quotes out of context, as is a fairly prominent strategy of news sources that are willing to set aside their journalistic integrity for the sake of ratings.
I am not a conspiracy theorist- perhaps I should have led with that. But I know how easy it is to manipulate a headline or a story. I also have fallen victim to a few Twitter pranks (such as Bill Cosby’s death), and sometimes catch myself quoting The Daily Show or the Colbert Report rather than a real news source. It is important to stay aware of what’s happening in the world, but it is equally important to ensure that we are not too easily influenced by our sources of information.