Perspective: an Original Article from Techinch Magazine
It’s been 8 weeks since Techinch Magazine hit the App Store, and I’m working now on getting Issue 4 published in a few days. But, if you haven’t read anything in Techinch Magazine yet, you might enjoy a sample article — one that many readers said was their favorite from the first issue.
So here is one of the first articles from Techinch Magazine, for your reading pleasure for free. Enjoy.
The lost value in today’s rush for the instant.
For all the handwringing over the lack of permanence on the internet, most of the stuff shared online today isn’t really worth saving. Social networks are filled with vapid, off-the-cuff remarks that are posted on a whim. History will have lost precious little if every Facebook update, Tweet, Amazon review, Reddit thread, and YouTube comment were permanently lost.
That’s not simply being dismissive of user generated content. Instead, it’s a statement on the lack of perspective that goes into most opinions foisted online. People rate books — and everything else — by their covers far too often. The opinions you see are mainly reactive, either based simply on what the product claims for itself, or on first impressions.
Movie reviews seem more to state what we expect (ala a conformation that a remake or sequel of a movie couldn’t possibly live up to the quality of the original) rather than showing how the movie fits in its genre and pushes the art forward (or not, as it may be). Software reviews far too often simply parrot the developer’s claims for the app without actually testing them out. News, even, is far too often simply stated directly, without being put into context so the public can grasp the greater picture.
Ours is a fast-paced, live for the moment society. In the struggle to be first to press in the age of Twitter, speed has replaced insight. @BreakingNews can give you as much info as most TV news these days, and it only reports 140 character headlines. Investigative reporting is nearly a lost art.
Nothing built that way will stand the test of time. Our world is more focused on short-term gains, which will only bring a long-term greater loss.
It’s time for a change. We need perspective.
Getting Away From the Echo Chamber
“I think, therefore I am.”
René Descartes, 1637
For millennia, the majority of humanity toiled it fields for the very food they ate. Writing and reading - even the very knowledge of what limited world affairs there were - was the sole domain of the ruling class. It was the printing press that sparked the Enlightenment, the time when the wisdom of generations storied in printed words was unlocked for the masses.
The first printed works were of great importance: the Bible, the classics, textbooks, and histories. But as time went on and printing became cheaper, printed matter grew to include everything from newspapers and scholarly journals to almanacs and pulp fiction, tabloids and advertisement pamphlets, and anything in-between.
Then along came computers and desktop publishing. Better yet, the Internet, first with Geocities and message boards. Now, we’re all walking around with computers in our pockets, recording and sharing the minutiae of our dinners and dreams in 140 character messages - on the very same platform reporters are breaking news about life-changing events.
Somehow along the way to instant publication, we lost perspective. We all have. We seem to take everything that happens at face value, without putting it in its greater context. We tweet, but we don’t think. We’re so bombarded with info, nothing can make a lasting change on us.
One minute we’re upset over some injustice in the world, and are signing a digital petition to right the wrong. The next, we’re liking an inspiration picture on Facebook. Then we join in a debate on Reddit about a topic we only heard about 5 minutes ago. That evening, as we’re watching the evening news, that terribly important issue that took up 3 minutes of our lives in the morning is scarcely remembered.
Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad if we had more resources giving us perspective. But we don’t. We crowd out longform journalism with TV news and Twitter, since we don’t have time to read. We Google fast facts, quote the first one listed, and don’t research deeper since we have no time. And what’s filling up our time? Finding yet more trivial information.
It’s time to shut it all out, and choose how we fill our minds and time - or not. After all, you don’t have to be doing something all the time. It may sound quaint to say you should “stop and smell the flowers”, but perhaps that command is more true for us today than ever, now that we’d be more inclined to Instagram said flowers only to have out thoughts interrupted by yet another push notification.
The only way to change is to force the change. You have decide to start shutting out the chatter. There’s only so much our minds can take in and actually process, so you’ve got to turn the spigot off yourself.
Perhaps turn your Internet off for an hour or two a day. Or turn off all but the most essential notifications. Take a day off social networking each week, perhaps, or perhaps trim down the list of people you’ve friended and followed.
Now, make some positive changes. Choose where you get your info, and when. Don’t just browse aimlessly, but proactively choose what you read, watch, and listen to. It’s not that it’s bad news, per se, it’s just that we all get far too much of it. So pick the best and brightest sources, and when you choose to learn about the news, go there.
Finally, start building your own resources to give you your own better perspective. You don’t have to become a librarian or research journalist to do it. Just write down notes in the simplest way for you - on paper, in an app, whatever - about what’s happening. Write what impressed you about a political candidate, or save the articles about a storm that impacted you. Next time around, you’ll have your own resources to pull from to give you insight and perspective on what’s happening in the world.
It’s what we all need.
The original draft of this article was written on an Olympia mechanical typewriter, a reminder of a time when news traveled slower. And — one would hope, at least — a time with more perspective.
This article was originally published in Techinch Magazine, Issue 1. If you enjoyed it, why not download Techinch Magazine on your iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch and check out the other issues, or purchase an individual copy of any of the other issues?
Thoughts? @reply me on Twitter.