What happened was what humans tend to do with something new and good. Screw it up. The internet has become a toxic cesspool of misinformation with competing forces manipulating information to advance their interests. What can we do to control what we read and view?
There was a time, way back in the day, back when I was more Kitty Kate than Kate Mac, that even in Brooklyn we lived in simpler times. Each town or city of substance had a daily newspaper, and likely an edition from a larger nearby city. We had a few radio stations, fewer TV stations, and magazines that almost everyone read.
Information gathering was simpler, more beneficial, less divisive, and somewhat more uniform. Those days are gone.
Today we have the entire internet available to us on the iPhone’s screen. It’s like having a Mac and an open window to the world in a pocket. Not only did the marriage between information superhighway and a mobile and always connected device bring us more knowledge and communication and connections to others in an instant, it also opened a floodgate of information that spans the spectrum from valuable to utterly worthless.
We are not immune to the problems of too much information and we have not been well trained to differentiate perspective and opinion from fake news; some of us cannot tell the difference and that speaks volumes about the predicament humanity finds itself in today.
What can Apple do to help?
Obviously, Apple recognizes the pressures placed upon traditional media and news gathering sources. We are breeding a whole generation of mobile device users who have no knowledge of how to gather news, how to filter the noise, and who think YouTube is television. Among the tools we can use on Mac, iPhone, and iPad are Apple’s own News app, RSS news readers, and applications from entities that gather, track, cultivate, and curate the news in a somewhat more traditional method which places importance on fact vs. fiction.
We live in dangerous times; an era where foreign entities impact and manipulate electorates in our country and elsewhere. We live in a time where fiction is touted as fact, where facts are dismissed as fake, where even educated elected officials work on an agenda anathema to their constituents, and where 21st century media companies– Facebook and Google, I’m looking at you– seek to manipulate their users for their own enormous profits.
Your iPhone, Mac, and iPad have applications which can be used to counter such manipulation but all require an element of consideration and usage which is foreign to generations of the past who obtained the daily digest of information from a local newspaper, a few radio and TV stations, and the national stage was not divided among such disparate groups.
A simple RSS news reader can help you find the news you want to read so you can compare the message with others, and in the age of information overflow, a comparison is good. Last month I wrote two missives on RSS and two things I found that should lead you to run to the nearest Mac or iPhone or iPad RSS newsreader.
What I Found By Using An RSS Reader – Regurgitation. The same news and rumors are passed off on each website so what you read on one will show up on two, three, six or seven other websites. What you read on 9to5Mac often shows up on Cult of Mac which can be found on Apple Insider, Macworld, TechCrunch, Computerworld, PCMag and PCWorld, Mashable and many others.
Something Else I Found By Using RSS – Advertising disguised as news. Articles disguised as special deals. Articles that sell vs. articles that inform. Nearly every major Apple-oriented, Mac-oriented, and technology gadget oriented website features so-called articles or special deals (often disguised as an article) that help the website regain some of the revenue that was lost thanks to ad blockers, lowered advertising rates, and lowered advertising click-through rates; all of which combine to reduce or eliminate profitability for such sites.
People are being manipulated by a staggering deluge of misinformation– but just like the frog that dies a slow death simmering in a pot of water– never feeling the pain until it is too late– they can take charge and create their own filter; a filter tight enough to keep out useless debris, but wide enough to allow in information with different value.
Back in the day we called them books, magazines, television, and radio; not to mention institutions of higher learning. Today, good and bad exist in the same pot with a similar look and feel and it requires effort to unravel the valuable from the valueless. An RSS news reader can help and yet it puts you in control of what you read and view each day. Those apps work on every Apple device.