The Curse of the Age of Information

How Social Media Algorithms and Selective Communication Theory Wrote the End of Truth-Telling

Jamal Ballouk
3 min readFeb 5, 2023
The Age Of Information — By Jamal Ballouk — Digital Art Gallery

The internet has been an amazing source of information, connecting people from all over the world and allowing us to access an incredible wealth of knowledge. However, in recent years, the internet has become more and more cluttered with an overwhelming amount of information. This can lead to confusion, and it can be difficult to know what information is accurate and what is not. In this article, we will explore how social media algorithms and selective communication theory contribute to this problem and what their impact is on the truth.

Social media algorithms play a major role in the dissemination of information on the internet. These algorithms are designed to show us what we want to see, based on our personal preferences, habits, and behaviors. The problem is that these algorithms can also limit the information we see, as they prioritize the content that is most relevant and popular. This means that we may be missing out on important and accurate information, or that we may be exposed to false information, without even knowing it.

The selective communication theory also plays a role in the spread of false information or “Zohnerism” Which is by definition “The use of a true fact to lead a scientifically and mathematically ignorant public to a false conclusion”, In 1997, Nathan Zohner, a 14-year-old student from Eagle Rock Junior High School in Idaho Falls, made headlines for his science fair project. The project was called “How Gullible Are We?” and involved presenting a warning about the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide (DHMO) to 50 ninth-grade students and asking what should be done about it. DHMO, also known as water, is a colorless, odorless, tasteless chemical that can cause serious harm, including accidental inhalation, tissue damage, and death. DHMO contributes to acid rain, the greenhouse effect, and erosion, among other negative impacts. Despite its dangers, DHMO is widely used in various industries and even military experiments, leading to global contamination. 43 out of the 50 students favored banning DHMO, while only one recognized it as water. Zohner’s project won first prize in the science fair and sparked attention from media and politicians about the dangers of misinformation.

When these two factors are combined (too Much Information and Zohnerism), the truth can be greatly distorted. For example, a person who only receives information that supports their existing beliefs may be more likely to believe false information, without ever being exposed to the facts. Additionally, social media algorithms may amplify the spread of false information by prioritizing popular and viral content, even if it is not accurate.

It’s important to be aware of these downsides of the internet, and to take steps to protect ourselves from being misled. This can be done by critically evaluating the information we receive, seeking out multiple sources of information, and being mindful of our personal biases and preferences. It is also important to remember that the internet is not always a reliable source of information, and that it is up to each of us to verify the accuracy of the information we receive.

In conclusion, the age of overwhelming information is a double-edged sword, providing us with access to a wealth of knowledge, but also exposing us to the risk of false information. Social media algorithms and selective communication theory play a major role in this problem, and it is up to each of us to be vigilant in our evaluation of information and to protect ourselves from being misled. By being mindful of these factors and taking steps to protect ourselves, we can ensure that the truth remains clear and accessible in this age of overwhelming information.

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Jamal Ballouk

Because somebody had to write about the tragedy of existence with a sense of humor.