It was a Saturday night, and I was chatting with my wife and my little boy about something that he heard in school, the conversation itself is of no interest, but what is important is what he said (and all his friends said) was actually.
As a dad that likes his son to never stop on the surface, I have taken my phone out and started to find the truth and also to make sure I was not wrong. We read the first article, second article, and third article, all leading to the truth, the information that my son was provided was incorrect.
Incorrect information is everywhere, nowadays, we have fake news everywhere, so what is different about this one? Well, the problem with the media used to gather this information, is that it is not classified as “fake news” and it is unfortunately believed by many millions of people across the word. This information was provided by an “influencer”.
Before I continue with the article I want to clearly define that I am not saying that all influencers are wrong and should not be followed. I am super happy for many of these people that manage to make a success out of their hobbies and knowledge.
In the next couple of sections we are going back in time, but I promise you that it is all needed to express my thoughts and feeling that lead me to write this article.
A long long time ago… The was a master and an apprentice
Many centuries ago, when civilization was at its early stages and writing was just allowed for very few, people were used to learning from the so-called masters (I know that this word nowadays is not very well accepted, but in this case, I am referring to a person that has great skill or proficiency).
If you were born into a low class, your only hope for a career was to be taken in as an apprentice by a Master, such as a blacksmith, and work very hard to learn the skills. Most people could not read, and even if they could this kind of profession was not actually written down in a book called “Blacksmiths for Dummies”. Masters were the only “pool of knowledge” and following their lead and instruction was the only way to learn things and continue the tradition.
School and written knowledge
Fast forward a few centuries and things start to get much better. Many professions and knowledge is now written in books and stored safely. People are more educated and are able to read and join schools.
If we compare this era with the one previously mentioned we can see that there are some important changes but some similarities. The masters have been replaced with Teachers and the single apprentices have been replaced by the many students attending schools. There is now the ability for people to self-learn (if someone would have the correct book and the willingness to learn by themselves) but overall the flow is the same, someone knows and teaches the people that want to learn.
We are now in the technological boom. The internet is now accessible to a great part of the population, TV can be found in most people’s houses and information is shared and provided 24/7. Schools are still the main source of information and knowledge, but a great part of the population is able to know access free information at a press of a button. TVs are full of interesting programs, from Documentaries to Movies, all providing insightful information. Of course, TV is also full of programs that do not provide knowledge, but we are focusing on the good TV and not the bad ones in this part of the article.
So far, no matter if we analyse an era long lost, a flowering civilization or a technologically advanced era, they all share the same idea. On one side we have wise people (masters, teachers, TV presenters) and on the other, we have people willing to learn from these wise people.
The fall of knowledge as we knew it
We have finally reached the end of this article and I really hope that you will find it worthwhile. So we have travelled back in time and we are nowhere in today’s day and things have changed (2023 to be precise at the time of writing this article).
Until now we have seen things progress and adapt to the different time periods, either learning by working hard, reading books, watching TV or following a video tutorial, you were expected to be learning from people that were wise and were well placed to explain a given topic.
It is important to say that bad teachers and people that provided bad information have always existed, but overall the source of information provided by the main medium (school, TV, books) was expected to be correct.
Things started to change a few years ago, when the internet provided the ability for people to share their knowledge without the need to take over a TV show, or pretend to be teachers, and allowed people to share their ideas, right or wrong as they are, to the entire world. These low entry barriers have in the last few years seen a big increase in fake news across the internet.
My child is growing and as such, I can see the trend that these new children are following, what we did was watch TV, and what they do is check TikTok, youtube, Instagram and Twitch (note that my child does not have access to any of these yet, but his friends do). What people nowadays do, even my mom does, is watch people on the internet that have raised to fame from one day to another and believe them to be a good source of truth.
If you are watching a video shared by an influencer that has 4 million followers, no matter what he says, you trust him. If you want to try to be successful, there is no reason to work hard anymore, because there is just that great influencer with millions of subscribers that is going to show you how to become reach in just a few easy steps.
As I said at the very start, I am not saying that all influencers share bad knowledge at all, as I am friendly with quite a few of them, but what I am trying to share is that the fact that there are absolutely no entries barriers that allows EVERYONE to become an influencer and give them access to many people that believe them wise.
Unfortunately, as I write this article, I cannot think of any solution to this problem. I am extremely proud of the current situation in the world, the internet and its low entry barriers have allowed many people to be able to share their thoughts and support free speech. Knowledge is not kept for just a few (as it was a long time ago), but accessible to all at a click of a button. I have seen endless superhero and fantasy movies, and in all of them the person with the superpower is always the one that makes the correct choice, the one that uses its influence for the greatest good, and things always end well, but real life is not a movie, many influencers are not taking their responsibility seriously and they are playing with the truth and with the many millions of people that follow them every day.
This misinformation is not only shared as bad news (like with my son that was told something completely wrong), but also by showing a reality that is not true and does not exist. I have read many articles about people living 2 distinct lives, the one in front of the screen where they conducted a life of the dream, a life that everyone wanted to replicate, and the one outside of the screen where things were not as they seems. I could go on and on, with different things I have read about, but I think to have shared my opinion well enough.
Writing this article was not simple at all. I have had a discussion with my wife after the chat with my child, and she is the one that thought I should have shared this information as it could help the thousands of people reading this post to open their eyes and try to see the world as it is and be more careful on what they see and who they idolized.
I am a self-thought developer, I speak at conferences, I have published a book, and I do all these thanks to the things I shared above, the same bad medium that I am complaining about is the one that helped me progress in my career. I learned and got my first job by watching a youtube video, and even now I still get some of my knowledge from videos and free knowledge found across the internet.
The internet and its ability to be used to share knowledge is a great blessing, the problem is actually us, the people using it, the so-called influencers did not become so because they wanted to, but because millions and millions of people have decided to follow them. If someone does something extremely bad or dangerous and it is followed by hundreds and hundreds of more people every day, why should it stop doing so? The problem is not directly the influencers and these people trying to make a career out of this, but it is with the people (us) that use this medium and have provided it too much importance in our lives and forgotten how things really are and where and how to get our information.
As I said above, I do not have the answer and I am not sure what we could do to make things better. I personally do not use TickTok or any other similar platforms, but I am not saying that you should not do so either and I know that it is a great way to reduce stress and relax at the end of a long day. Maybe my only suggestion would be to take a little more care of who you choose to be your role model and try to open your eyes and not always believe everything you hear and see.
As I have done with my son, by checking multiple resources, you should probably do the same. Until a few centuries ago, information was held by few and just shared if you were thought to be worth it. I am not saying that we should go back to that, but I feel like we moved too far from that and the current way of driving knowledge may actually turn out to be the biggest mistake in our history.