The Speed of our Lives, Taking Offense, and Fake News

I read recently that the Feds are considering dropping the requirement that businesses report their status (earnings, etc) quarterly. This request was made by some of the most successful firms in the land. It seems they are spending small (and in some cases large) fortunes simply preparing reports. The end result it seems is to affect stock fluctuations and enriching wall street traders but little else. Corporate managers are distracted by these reports and cannot see the long term.

That set off an entire thought chain about the speed of our lives and whether we really benefit from the bombardment of information, communication, and the like or whether it is detrimental to the quality of our lives.

We have trained ourselves that we MUST respond instantly to emails. We have set expectations that if we don’t have an instant response (even if its just an “l’ll get back to you later” response) we are being ignored and begin to take offense. The fact that the person may be in the bathroom or careening at 70mph down the 405, well you know what I mean, is immaterial. They didn’t respond. There must be something wrong. Maybe they are dissing me. Maybe I should take offense. Hmmmmm.

Of course this is absurd.

I have also been musing about “fake news.” Although I am cynical about it, I will give the devil its due. I will assume that most “fake news” is “mistaken news.” That is in the rush to get the news to those who crave it, reporters and their ilk don’t take the time to check their facts, ensure they aren’t being played by their sources, and forget the rules we used to play by. That is, a story didn’t run until it had been verified by two independent sources. If you didn’t have those, there was no story. In our quest to bring the news to the consumers, in our desire to use all the tools at our disposal (smart phones, internet, Twitter, and the rest) we forget that we need quality as well as speed.

That’s why, by the way, I don’t watch TV news. I know that newspapers can be biased, but at least there is a chance that some editor, somewhere, had a chance at the story before it ran.

As Michael Walsh said in over at PJM:

Indeed, it’s not just business that needs a respite from the increasing pace of infinitesimal events — it’s all of us.  Are we really better off by having our days sorted into seconds and even microseconds? Is it really vital to have instantaneous communication with the outside world? Are not some things better to be said at leisure, rather than repented of in haste? Can anything worthwhile or lasting be created in a Wall Street nano-second? Or can only often-irreversible damage be done?


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