Information Age or Age of Ignorance?

We’re not in an information age anymore. We’re in the information management age.
— Chris Hardwick

In this day and age media, news, communication, and our overall social interaction has changed exponentially. This past week something I created went viral, and I was involved in what honestly has become a social experiment. I have to say it's an odd feeling knowing that literally thousands of people have seen and in some way been affected or reacted to what I created. What is now referred to as a "meme" by some really just started as a joke between a friend and I. This was something I created to get a chuckle out of my students and it really has become much more than I could have ever imagined. 

It was one week ago today late Saturday night, that I publicly posted the above "satirical classroom policy" on my personal Facebook wall. I had the hopes that by making it public my teacher friends, and their friends etc. might all get a kick out of it. The poster was crafted after a humorous discussion with my friend, Genevieve Stockburger, about some terrible in game punishments for Pokemon Go players. We both play the game, so of course the rules we concocted were exceptionally painful. This topic of discussion all began because we had seen a viral video on the internet earlier that day of a reporter who was playing this popular augmented reality game while at a press conference. I realize my lectures are not quite as important as an ISIS briefing with the US State Department Spokesperson, John Kirby, but I did see the similarities in how the game can become distracting to not only others around the player but also the person speaking. Beyond being distracting this is just poor practice for being professional in real life industry experiences. Professionalism is of course a topic we heavily emphasize to our students as they are trained to be in the media industry. Thus I created this poster as a segue into this important conversation and a way to tie the unprofessional behavior of the reporter to our in class discussion. 

These policies have since taken on a life of their own. By Monday morning my original post had been shared more than one hundred times. I had messages from people all over the globe, and I knew this was going in a direction that was nothing short of amusing. I was even asked by strangers if they could translate the poster into other languages. I lightly monitored the activity at first, but by Wednesday it had become even stranger. News entities started reaching out to me and all I could do was laugh. My humor apparently spoke to an entire hoard of educators as well as students, but as you would expect there were those who were less than enthused by my antics. I deleted my original post Wednesday evening, and I feel like this is when the social experiment started. 


Reddit comments by jacobfreeman000, cookiwookieyo, and qial responding to the UPI article.

Reddit comments by jacobfreeman000, cookiwookieyo, and qial responding to the UPI article.

Reddit comment by LootsyCollins in response to some negative feedback. 

Reddit comment by LootsyCollins in response to some negative feedback. 

On Thursday I noticed my policies had been posted to websites such as IMGUR, Reddit, 9Gag, Pinterest, Facebook, and Tumblr. Those are just the ones I found of course. This image has sparked discussions across all of those platforms and I'm sure a few I don't know about as well. As can be expected there were some good and some bad responses, but I believe bad responses in general stem from miscommunication and a lack of context (at least in regards to an innocent joke). I have not been posting or pushing this poster and yet society has taken it globally. By my very rough estimation the poster has been liked more than ten-thousand times on social media sites, it has been shared approximately ten-twelve-thousand times and viewed countless times overall. In one week what I created as a classroom joke has likely been viewed by more than one-hundred-thousand individuals. With all of that interaction there are thousands of comments and opinions being posed about the fairness of my rules, the unjust reaction I have towards my students, how cool art teachers are, and in general the content of my post. 

I find all of this to be extremely amusing, but really more than that, this is a testament to how social media has changed our society. Society now allows something innocuous such as this poster to be viewed as international news. The world is technically driven, and we take the speed and ease of communication this technology provides for granted. In this age we have the ability to reach the masses literally in moments, and for this reason the information that is shared can be as earth shattering as a terrorist attack or as simple as a well placed joke. Thinking back to the days of dial up internet, or before that when we relied on catching the news on TV or the radio, or even before that when the printing press was the only way to transpose information and reach the populace, I have to say we have come a long way. Personally I have a fear that we have come too far. We are living in the information age, but are we really informed? We like things, we pin things, we share things... but do we actually allow ourselves to soak in that information? Are we inundating ourselves with so much that we are not allowing the discussions going on around us that really hold merit to be valued, observed, and learned from? Right now we are able to access almost any training, or information of interest with just a few key strokes. This should mean we are all more accomplished and that our society as a whole is better educated, yet that is not the case.  Instead, it is more common for jokes to be discussed than life and death affairs. We live in the information age, but personally I believe this to be the age of ignorance or avoidance. While we have furthered our methods of communication over the years, the actual act of broaching important subjects, and pursuing knowledge often times seems to be avoided.

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
— George Bernard Shaw

All of this being said, it is very entertaining that my poster has become so well known. I am after all a designer and an artist. I am involved with media, advertising, marketing, and education. Social Media is a wonderful tool to use in all of these exploits and I really enjoy exploring it to connect with people I otherwise would be unable to reach, but from my desk to yours, I challenge you to live with intentionality. While jokes like my poster, and other humorous things that often go viral across the globe are a great way to liven up your mood and add a smile to your day, technology is really a gift to our society. Let us pursue knowledge beyond the likes, shares, and comments that flood our technical devices. I challenge you to be deliberate with your time. Learn about another culture, read news articles that affect the lives of others and feel empathy towards their situations, but most importantly, strive to accomplish knowledge just for knowledge sake. If enough of us are intentional in our use of technology as a learning tool we may be able to communicate again in a way that helps heal wounds and start important conversations to better our world.