On Hacker News, I saw a reference to Noam Bardin’s article about post,news with a draw-dropping quote:
The Truth Is Paywalled But The Lies Are Free
And I instantly recognized it as a fundamental truth of how and why the web, in general, and social media in particular, fails us.
Those with reasons to have something to gain from us believing (or at least being exposed to) an idea have an incentive to make it free and easy and often financial resources to make it attractive. Those reporting simple truth without another agenda don’t have those other resources to draw from.
Bardin describes some of the scary truths about this in the journalism space, and I have joined the waiting list for his service.
Then I started to think about this more broadly. It is free both financially and cognitively to watch “junk video.” We only pay for it with large chunks of the hours of our lives and the damage to our minds. (For example, David Robson’s book “The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Change Your World” strongly suggests that repeated exposure to videos portraying the elderly in caricatured ways might cost us seven years of life span.) The financial cost of high-quality video courses is often vanishing small relative to our time commitment, though the cost of attention may be much higher.
How often do I look at the free courses when an inexpensive but vastly superior one is available?
Yes, this is Bardin has surfaced a profound truth about the universe.
And perhaps surfaced for me an equally important but opposing truth.
How often do we neglect valuable free experiences in favor of non-free, less valuable ones because there is no advertising campaign to make them salient? A backrub, a walk in the park, a game of charades.
For me, the embarrassing answer is always.