Many people are choosing to find information online rather than in books. Is this development positive or negative?
An increasing number of people nowadays choose to seek information and answers to their queries online, rather than to seek the same using books. I view this change as a positive development as far as ease of accessibility is concerned. However, this change has had a detrimental effect on the trustworthiness of information available. First and foremost, with a constant and rapid increase in the number of people with access to the internet, the entirety of the vast collection of human knowledge is now available at people’s fingertips. In contrast to books, which may be limited in their range and scope, the internet has enabled people to obtain knowledge, to the extent and detail that they may desire, whenever they may choose to do so. This choice is not constrained by geographical location or by time, only by their connectivity and desire. For example, there has been a rise in the number of people enrolling in online courses to enhance their skills and knowledge throughout the world. A large majority of these students are located in developing countries, many of whom seek to gain instruction of the highest standard, and unlike the age of books, are not restricted to the options locally available to them. However, along with the stated benefit, the drawback of people turning to the internet for answers is a rise in the prevalence of inaccurate, misleading and factually incorrect information. Unlike books, and the content contained therein, which goes through several stages of scrutiny before being published, information available online is not scrutinised in a similar manner. This has led to the rise of incorrect information being disseminated, either erroneously or purposefully with a mala-fide intent to spread misinformation. As an example, with the general elections for the Indian republic fast approaching, there has been a marked rise in the number of articles and posts on various online platforms, with factually incorrect and often polarising information. The intent behind such publications, appears to be, to sway the electorate using misinformation campaigns. To conclude, I would like to state that the increasing preference of people to seek knowledge online is a positive development, as it reduces the barriers to gain learning and improves access to information. However, the same comes with the drawback of leading to a rise in factual errors and spread of misinformation due to a lack of scrutiny.