The Conversation

Are We Faking Cultural Literacy?

I'm an avid non-Section A reader of the New York Times.  It really is a good little paper for everything not related to politics or policy.

Recently, there was a great article titled "Faking Cultural Literacy."  From the article:

What we all feel now is the constant pressure to know enough, at all times, lest we be revealed as culturally illiterate. So that we can survive an elevator pitch, a business meeting, a visit to the office kitchenette, a cocktail party, so that we can post, tweet, chat, comment, text as if we have seen, read, watched, listened. What matters to us, awash in petabytes of data, is not necessarily having actually consumed this content firsthand but simply knowing that it exists — and having a position on it, being able to engage in the chatter about it. We come perilously close to performing a pastiche of knowledgeability that is really a new model of know-nothingness.

As a writer, my goal is to convey an idea or emotion or experience.  It's frustrating to put something out into the world and then feel like I'm not really getting my point across after I read the comments.  Of course, I might be better off not reading the comments, but that's an article for another day.

More from the Times:

According to a recent survey by the American Press Institute, nearly six in 10 Americans acknowledge that they do nothing more than read news headlines — and I know this only because I skimmed a Washington Post headline about the survey. After we’ve skimmed, we share. Commenters frequently start their posts with TL;DR — short for Too Long; Didn’t Read — and then proceed to offer an opinion on the subject at hand anyway. As Tony Haile, the chief executive of the web traffic analytics company Chartbeat, recently put it, “We’ve found effectively no correlation between social shares and people actually reading.” (He tweeted that.)

It seems like we are always forced to have an opinion.  The last thing people want to say is "I don't know."  Outrage replaces reasoned debate.  "You're ugly/fat/boring/crazy" replaces "I disagree with you and here's why."  


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