We live in the Age of Opinion.
Initially, the internet offered an incredible, world and mind-altering way to communicate and share information. It has changed the world, mostly for the better.
It has also become a flea market for the opinions of everyone, whether they be articulate, informed, ignorant, hateful, or benevolent. This has changed us, not for the better.
The news, the well-researched and thoughtfully organized information about events and people that is essential for democracy to function well, is now mostly opinion and gossip. Why? Because the beast has to be fed and fed often.
A newspaper is printed every morning, and can use the 24 hours in between each print run to gather, assess, organize, and publish what it deems newsworthy. It can plan how to best use its limited space to inform its readers and profit its advertisers. Its editors and reporters have (or had) the time to think about what they were writing and what they had written before it was published. There were gatekeepers, standards, and, yes, censors.
The internet, on the other hand, must be fed constantly and has no limitations of time and space. Bloggers post daily. (I do not.) They rarely have someone over their shoulders, asking hard questions about facts, nit-picking about grammar and punctuation, and challenging the author about whether or not what they are writing warrants being published.
The worldwide web has also fueled a new level of narcissism. Psychologists around the world have noted increased levels of narcissistic behavior among young people (the group that is online more than any other).
Almost everyone has a Facebook page. Everyone takes pictures of themselves with their phones, sometimes with disastrous results for politicians and celebrities. (Wink, nod.) People think that because they have an online presence that they are worthwhile, that they are productive, that they exist, that they are not alone.
It also makes them think that their opinions have substance and value simply because they are available for public view. Sometimes they do, but often they are just the angry, shortsighted nonsense once found only in a local pub if you bothered to listen to the old drunk at the end of the bar.
The internet, and the chatter it has spawned, have increased the volume of communication we have access to, but decreased the quality of it.
News is not one talk show host insulting another. Editorials are important, but only when they are articulate and well-reasoned. Sharing information about one’s life is natural, but use caution: very few people really care, regardless of how many “friends” you have on you “page” or how many people are “following” you. And the photo or comment you thought was so clever as a college senior can come back to haunt you as a young adult looking for a job.
Old Money keeps its own counsel. It values its privacy. It measures its communications and therefore retains the value of its words. It weighs the opinions of others, experts and laymen alike, and forms its own opinions slowly.
Old Money keeps an open mind, but it knows what it knows.
And one thing it knows is that talk is cheap.