Access to Information

This morning as I skimmed through my Facebook feed, I was drawn to the words of a friend: “There are some days when I wish I could close my eyes and go back to a reality when I didn’t understand and was ignorant to the impact”.  The comment pointed to this news article about the relationship between addiction and adverse childhood experiences.

In the first paragraph an addiction doctor says addiction shouldn’t be called addiction.  It should be called ‘ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking’ because of the way such behaviour is linked to adverse childhood experiences.  The article continues by highlighting the pedigree of the doctor as a way to clarify and establish respect for his position and then delves into his extensive research.

Information in the ‘stone age’

There was a time when in depth articles about health and well-being were limited to medical journals.  To the extent that the research was helpful for the majority, summaries could find their way into mass media, typically skewed by the perspectives of the authors.  For the most part, however, people relied on the wisdom and ability of their health care providers to stay on top of the latest medical research and developments.

Googling google

As I prepared this post on health education in Ontario, I looked back on what has changed in the past 20 years.  Doing so, meant googling a variety of issues to refresh my memory as to how things have evolved.  This included googling google to determine when this Internet search engine was introduced to the masses and when it formally entered into our vocabulary.

Since 1998, our ability to access information has shifted from card catalogues in libraries and encyclopaedias.  In fact, at this point, we could ask Siri, Alexa or Google virtually any question and have access to information almost instantaneously.  The challenge isn’t access, it is our ability to decipher the quality of the sometimes hundreds of references we are given.

Knowledge overload

We don’t even have to google to get information.  Internet news pages, social media feeds, and news programs of many different forms continue to inform and engage the masses.  Knowledge swirls around us like a storm of words out of which we somehow need to make meaning for ourselves and others.  This meaning-making is then expected to influence our actions, helping us to decide whether or not to eat eggs, which plants are toxic, how to save the bees, which renovations will give us the most bang for our buck, which places are the most volatile, how addictions should be addressed, and which politicians support which policies.

What about the next generation?

If, at times, all of this information feels overwhelming for adults, imagine what it is like to be a teenager with access to this level of information?  What impact does it have on the psyche of young people when they are scrolling through news feeds and social media and encountering information about climate change, violence, racial tensions, sexuality and more?  How do parents and teachers help young people make-meaning out of all that information?  What can adults do to help young people stay optimistic and engaged in a world that is all too often painted as problematic?  What examples do you have from your circumstances?  Feel free to comment.

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