Wielding the power of the Internet

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authored, with loads of love & thought, by Pranjali Pratik

This is the information age. There has never been a better time in history to learn.

People, in olden times, may have found themselves limited by the books that were available to them, the people they knew who could teach them a new skill/subject in life, the occupation they had chosen to take up.

But not anymore. There are doctors who learnt coding and video editing and are successful youtubers, actors who found their passion for knowledge sharing and decided to become life coaches, or this software engineer at The Unlearning Playground who found a completeness when he started reading in 2017 and decided to share the power of philosophy and spiritualism with you all.

And yet, the world today appears more polarised than ever before. How did that come to be?

The wide reach of the Internet – Pros and Cons

The internet is an extremely powerful tool. It has enabled us to find like-minded people with very specific opinions and choices. If you are someone who likes videos of cats dancing to Bollywood tunes, wants to take an Intro to Something-ology class at age 31, dunks a bucket of ice water on yourself for a challenge or debates about the merits of the business pitched on the last episode of Shark Tank, you are not alone. You are never alone. The internet has erased the constraints of proximity, language and culture that once plagued the common man and woman.

For the best use of our precious time, we can now check IMdB before making the commitment to watch a new movie or show. We can check GoodReads or Amazon before deciding to read a new book, or buy a new dress. We can consume Youtube content from channels that are either recommended to us by friends, or by algorithms that are designed to serve content “we might like”. However, anything with a short summary that does not agree with our worldview often tends to get labeled as “not worth it” or “not my type” or simply “meh”. This is such a unique drawback of the internet, that it could not have been foreseen.

Instead of educating ourselves on contrarian opinions, we end up surrounded in an echo-chamber of people who think, believe and act just like us. This creates an illusion, “If so many people think like this, I can hardly be wrong”, and reinforces our outlook.

Two sides of the same coin

In his 1953 novel, Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury talks of a dystopian world where the majority of the world, ironically, identifies itself as a member of a very specific type of minority.

In this world, literature is consumed as, at first, a 1 page, subsequently a paragraph, and finally a two-line summary. TVs show content so personalized that it addresses the viewers by their names. In this satirical co-existence of too much content but no good content, the world becomes filled with people so intent on avoiding conflict that they forget to coherently interact with anyone, even their partners.

A late night talk show in the US conducted an interesting experiment a few years ago. They asked their correspondents to attend events of the political party with which they did not align. They were to speak to the attendees on policies that are considered the most divisive in the country. Remarkably, the people that are often projected as far right or far left leaning in the media, with little to no hope of amicable reconciliation in the foreseeable future, were more “middle-leaning” than could have been expected.

Stepping out of the Comfort Zone

Both the narratives presented above indicate a common solution – We must step out of the information bubbles that get created around us. We must wield the power of the internet to challenge our beliefs regularly. We may still disagree with the new concepts that we discover on our journey, but we will be better informed and more confident in the opinions we do choose to hold.

As our host, Chetan likes to say:
“If there is a specific kind of book you like to read, maybe you should read anything but that.”

We, at The Unlearning Playground, believe that the answer never lies in blaming or finding faults with others, but in looking within. The content we consume, whether it be youtube videos, books, or newsletters and podcasts (such as ours :D) should prompt us to critically examine our beliefs, our biases and push us towards a more holistic worldview.

We believe that our episodes can provide you with some of the tools needed to challenge our preconceived notions. Hope you feel the same.

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Liked our episode? Have thoughts or questions you would like to discuss?