I used to think the internet was the greatest piece of technology ever allowed in the hands of us ignorant schlubs skulking around the planet. It used to boggle my mind that unfettered access to any information under the sun would be tolerated for even 5 minutes by our loving puppet masters. The talk of heavy censorship in China, Iran, or Sauda Arabia made me feel blessed to have so much data at my fingertips, even while paranoia fomented in my brain that we were being heavily monitored.
I foresaw restrictions, paid access, and outright connectivity refusals to become the dominant protocol of the system, but the situation that eventually unfolded caught me off guard. Me so dumb.
Internet information control has been a well-crafted and methodically orchestrated campaign that has undergone constant refinement since the cold war’s inspiration of the technology. There’s been nothing accidental about how this entity has been disseminated to the public.
I’m writing this because I came to an unnerving realization today – I have no fucking clue what’s real anymore. I don’t know what “facts” should be trusted, what a legitimate scientific study is, or what sources to put any faith in. The internet has become a Wild West of manipulative advertising and salesmanship, all truths long buried under mountains of pop-up ads, special offers, and half-priced coaching sessions. For every undeniable fact in existence on the web, there exists and equally undeniable fact refuting it, all stoking the polarized fires of human belief.
Worst of all, after decades data of mining – the umpteen zillions of bits stored in computer banks, categorized by key word searches and social habits of cyber surfers – a “smart” system has developed, providing unique return data geared to a specific user. Information searched for is no longer relevant to exact wording, it’s relevant to your past tendencies and what software companies suggest you should examine because of those habits.
The Google search engine is fucking shit. It’s morphed so gradually that I’ve been oblivious to how bad it’s become. Despite the ever-present first hit ads bought by dedicated “entrepreneurs,” and the ridiculous Wikipedia information that seems to be revered as gospel, it used to still be somewhat possible to uncover subject matter that wasn’t really intended to be part of the mainstream collective. You just had to dig deep enough.
But those times have changed. Search Engine Optimization is anything but optimal. This became punishingly apparent today when trying to find the name of an article I wanted to reread. I was beginning to think it no longer existed in the cyber aether, but a quick scan on Duckduckgo.com pulled my file three hits down. Hmmm. Running the identical search on Google, even a dozen pages in, I still found nothing. It wasn’t until I put my phrase in quotes that I made any headway, which made absolutely no sense, seeing as how the words were buried in the page title tag.
Search results returned by Google have become almost irrelevant to the information I seek. News stories, trending videos, advertisements, and corporate interests dominate returns. Of the five words typed into a search, perhaps only one or two seem to be considered, which pretty much makes research a frustrating waste of time. Censorship isn’t in full swing, but the internet has gracelessly become an index of government and corporate suggested reading.
This same situation exists when searching items on Amazon. Whether or not people are paying to have their products pushed up on a search request should be irrelevant if they are devoid of the key words being sought. Typing a book title word for word will no longer guarantee an accurate return. SEO’s seem to cater to the highest bidders. I suppose I shouldn’t really be shocked.
The information is still out there, but it won’t be forthcoming as easily as it once was. And with the laziness and compliance of the typical web surfer these days, whatever the Google overlord suggests as relevant will likely be accepted without too much fuss.
If I need a map, store time, or best guess on future outdoor temperatures, the internet satisfies. If I need to learn more about removing shit stains from a carpet after a night of partying at a friend’s house, YouTube is king.
But if I need to dig deeper into the mysteries of life, new methods need to be put into practice. The watered down, copied and pasted shit repeated ad nauseam as airtight science ain’t cutting it anymore.
There are hundreds of authoritative websites you can reference for anything you want to learn more about, but how often do we stop to consider why the information should be trusted? The popular sites rarely bother including references, sources, or any basic citations to the information they provide. A slick looking site, with formulaic writing and imagery is about the only authority people care about these days. Even worse, people expect to learn unbiased information from a website that sells the product being praised. Perhaps a small conflict of interest there….
I’m not sure if most people are aware that Google owns YouTube. If you think of all the data Google has already accumulated over the years, imagine adding your YouTube habits to that vault. Your suggested video lists are being refined with every video you click on, and the more you click on their suggestions, the more of their suggestions you’ll get.
And most people probably don’t realize that Facebook owns Instagram and WhatsApp. You want to talk mined data, well, holy fuck, Facebook’s got the goods on most of the technologically savvy planet.
So how does one find truth these days?
It’s tough. People love supporting fads and trends. People love repeating the most popular story of the day, and people love telling you what’s been scientifically proven. An examination of history will clearly show all of these things are transient, yet whatever current flights of fancy the masses support becomes reality, and change is feared unless approved by the media.
Many web searches end after reading a single page, or conclude after uncovering the first evidence that corroborates expectation, belief, or plain old wishful thinking. My dad is happy to inform me that red wine is beneficial to the body, we need to eat more salt, and caffeine boosts the immune system. He read it on the inter webs. My experience in the real world suggests otherwise.
The only way to get to any truth is to live it yourself. Yeah, sometimes you’ll get burned, but that’s how the game of life works. Sometimes you’ll buy the stereo that breaks down the same afternoon, chew diet pills that make you fatter, or suffer seizures from zero-calorie chemical sweeteners put in your favourite soft-drink. You have to learn for yourself what works and what doesn’t. Putting absolute faith in the authority of another is the surest road to a miserable existence.
If you’ve been scarfin’ down kale for the last decade, despite gagging on it everyday, just because Dr. Weil declared it to be a superfood, well, perhaps time to reconsider your stance on bitter leaves. Maybe better to pay attention to what your body is telling about what it needs, not what some fat bearded fuck says.
That’s when you’ll come to learn that things in life aren’t black and white. Maybe meat-eating works stunningly well for one person, but not another. Maybe kale cures cancer in one person, but cow liver cures it in another. If both stories have a happy ending, the information is worth considering. If a solution fails you, try another. If that doesn’t work, change again. Evolve. Grow. Expand your horizons. Beliefs aren’t absolute. They’re way stations along the road of life, and eventually they all become diminishing specks in your rearview mirror. If you choose to keep driving, that is…
Part of the reason we’ve lost our fundamental intuitive abilities to filter bullshit is because it’s been so well packaged. And when they throw in a half-priced pizza and 10,000 bonus Air Miles, few can resist. Add a dancing panda and celebrity smile, and we’re sold. We’ve reached a point in our culture where we’ll willfully swallow poison while thanking the providers for making it readily, conveniently, and cheaply available to us. Fuck me.
But the main reason we have no idea where truth lies is because we’ve become denatured to ourselves. We don’t pay attention to our warning bells anymore because they never stop ringing. We’ve learned to tell our inner voice to shut the fuck up so often that it no longer tries to speak up. We engage in behaviours that cry out against reason, all the while justifying the actions as normal cultural etiquette.
I can’t suggest to anyone the best way to forge a greater evolutionary path in this world, but I can propose a few ideas to myself. I’ve had enough of Hay House peddling $8,000 Gregg Braden retreats to further my spiritual enlightenment. I’m tired of receiving emails about my last chance to buy half-priced Wayne Dyer books. I’ve reached my limit putting faith in nutritional guidelines of people who are old, haggard, and bear resemblance to pre-pickled mummies.
My answers are hiding somewhere within. I’ve just spent too much time obsessed with sampling hedonistic, 2-for-1, Western culture specials to realize, because I was a sucker for THX sound and models with big tits. Time to jack my personal headphones back into a more reliable source. I may not be able to pinpoint its location, but I’ll never need Google Maps’ assistance to direct me along that road. It’s a matter of learning to reset my own GPS.
I just remembered the name of an old search engine I used all the time:
Time to get reacquainted.