To give an example of the above statement, I once changed the biography of Vladmir Lenin as seen on Wikipedia’s public encyclopedia with the added farce that his views on Marxism and a socialist republic were wholly the fault of his magical goatee and that if he were to ever shave the facial hair from his masculine features, the whole of the Soviet Union would fall in disarray; thus the reason behind his being frozen to keep the dream alive. It remained on the site for nearly four months.
On a less jocular note, the massive cluster of impersonal notifications as seen through the miasma of social media sites has effectively desensitized us to the human condition. On any given day, you might find dozens of personal causes and flag-bearers who have no active stance to take on a plethora of issues; the most noteworthy amongst them being of a religious nature. Atheists and theists alike seem to be more concerned with showing the strength of their convictions through meaningless symbols and photographs, nary a one have bothered to follow through on their words by supporting a cause that might mean something to another.
The main issue with the internet being more of an entity rather than a medium lies in the execution of its use; there’s no room for intelligent debate any more. The moment an individual decides to set their words upon the infinite aether that is the online community, it becomes more fact than opinion. We’ve managed to see this trend affect mainstream media in the case of Jenny McCarthy’s terribly questionable claim that the average vaccination causes autism and a plethora of immune disorders without any tangible medical evidence to support the argument. This then led to an uprising of incredibly dubious first-hand accounts wherein mothers across North America suddenly chose to ignore the possibility that their child could be at risk of an easily avoidable illness. Where polio had been all but eradicated in first world nations, it has seen a slow and steady increase over the last decade since Ms. McCarthy chose to bombard the online community and raise support for the theories of an individual who had been laughed off the stage and nearly lost their license to practice in the mid-1990s.
In this case, we can see that the internet follows McLuhan’s statement that the presentation of the message is more often than not more important than the message itself. Had McCarthy chose to direct her accusations directly to the AMA or any number of medical institutions, they would have provided an airtight case against the claim through the use of data and carefully formed rebuttals rather than the outright dismissal of all known logic and scientific method.
In addition to the dangerous outpouring of misinformation that the last few decades have seen as a result of the medium overtaking the message, it is now unheard of for a teacher to be able to do their jobs without the use of a search engine. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve spoken with several educators who recently came into a teaching position that have outright stated they prefer to use Google to draw up lesson plans and allow their students to do the same for their assignments. This would appear to be harmless and is, all in all, a fine way to introduce the student to critical thinking if it weren’t for the aforementioned issues with an open-source encyclopedia. We’ve come to rely too much on chance in the Information Age and allowed convenience and complacency to dictate the way in which we arrive to a conclusion, conditioning ourselves to the limitation of free thought and the acceptance of what would otherwise be ludicrous and haphazard data.
In short, we’re too busy staring at Lenin’s magnificent Marxist beard to question why.