I’ve read a lot recently about how fractured our modern society is becoming. How the internet and modern media have allowed people to isolate themselves more and more, surrounding themselves with like-minded people and only the “news” they want to hear. And how more and more people have lost faith in the institutions that held our society together in the past: government, churches, scientists, news organizations, etc. The apparent result of this is that people are more easily duped by “fake news.” Because they are increasingly isolated from mainstream views and trustworthy institutions, they seem less able to discern the truth.
There seems to be obvious evidence of this trend. But then I wonder whether the institutions that people trusted in the past were really all that good at delivering the truth. Maybe that’s a big reason why they have lost people’s trust?
And is “the truth” really what people are most interested in now?
It seems to me that the development of new technologies has simply allowed people to find easier, more direct ways to affirm the particular “truths” they want to hear. Before, they had to rely on political institutions that would tell people what thy wanted to hear (because that’s how those institutions survived). But now people don’t need those so much. Now they can just find a group online to agree together, and so give almost anything a feeling of truth. As Simone Weil put it, “The power of the social element. Agreement between several people brings with it a feeling of reality.”
It may be that isolated people are easily duped. But people in big united groups are also easily duped (sometimes even more easily). History has demonstrated that. What is necessary to maintain contact with the truth is not a connection with large groups of people or their institutions. What’s necessary is a connection with God, who is the Truth.
And that requires the humility to submit and listen to what God is saying, in the myriad ways God speaks, rather than only listening to what we want to hear.