Trust in Encyclopedias
Remember when we were kids? If something was in the Encyclopedia Britannica, it was true. Now — thanks to Wikipedia — having “encyclopedic knowledge” of a topic isn’t as impressive when there’s a good chance most of what you think you know was concocted by a 12-year-old. After a 2005 study by the British journal Nature showed Britannica and Wikipedia to be equally inaccurate, faith in all encyclopedias plummeted.
It used to be you could kill many hours and even more brain cells drinking beer and arguing over useless trivia. Who was a more fearsome slugger, Babe Ruth or Hank Aaron? Who’d win a one-on-one match between Kobe Bryant and Doctor J? (Sorry Kobe–we love ya man, but in 1972 the Doc was unstoppable.) Now whenever there’s a question of fact, somebody just whips out a smart phone and does a search on Google or dials up Wolfram Alpha and runs a statistical analysis. Where’s the fun in that?
The niceties of polite disagreement are mostly dead, thanks to the Internet. Rudeness and name-calling have devolved into forms of entertainment; entire sites are devoted just to cataloging flame wars.
Listening to Albums
Remember putting “Dark Side of the Moon” on the turntable or slipping “Graceland” into your CD tray? Your kids won’t. Not only will the concept of music delivered via molecules–hard media–seem totally 20th century, but the entire concept of an album will be lost on them. Over the past decade, sales of complete albums–even the non-digital versions–declined 55 percent to less than 400 million in 2009. During roughly the same period, sales of individual digital tracks have soared from zero to nearly 1.2 billion.
Before the Web, if you wanted call yourself an expert, you usually needed expertise in some field. Now all you need is a blog. For example, in a recent survey by PR Week, 52 percent of bloggers call themselves “journalists.” Because calling yourself a “typist” isn’t nearly as impressive.
You can blame the rise in texting as much as Twitter for the death of the King’s English, though “relaxed” standards for bloggers have also played a role.
In the old days you usually had to be good-looking or talented to become famous. Now, thanks to reality TV, viral video, and social media, the fatter and more demented you are, the better your chances of becoming a household name. For example: Your last 17 movies may have totally sucked, but if you’ve got over 1.6 million followers on Twitter, who cares?