question of the weekend: Is Twitter making ignorance suddenly cool?

ignorance Dilbert

First it was the kids who tweeted surprise that Titanic wasn’t just a movie. Then it was kids on Twitter wondering just who the hell Dick Clark was, and why was everyone making such a big deal that he died. Then it was Megan Garber at The Atlantic saying that maybe it’s cool that kids are broadcasting their ignorance:

What the Dick Clark tweeters hint at, today, is the reappropriation of ignorance. These people refuse to be ashamed of the need to question something. On the contrary, they publicize their questioning. And they assume — actually, they recognize and declare — that the questioning is perfectly acceptable. Not knowing, they suggest, is simply a situation that can, like hunger or thirst, be easily transformed into another situation: satisfaction, knowledge, fulfillment.

Which is actually a much more realistic attitude than the traditional ignorance-as-shameful assumptions. The world, after all, has always teemed with information that is too vast to know; the difference now is that the web, with its fixed frenzy of facts, is a constant reminder of that vastness. It is a perpetual reminder of our perpetual ignorance.

Are we wrong to make fun of these tweeps? Is Twitter making ignorance suddenly cool? If so, is that a good thing or a bad thing?

I disagree with one of Garber’s contentions, that the Dick Clark tweets were about asking for an answer from friends, and this this is somehow more laudable than using Google or Wikipedia to simply eliminate the middle man and find out for oneself the answer to the question. I think it demonstrate an overall lack of curiosity: I admit I don’t know this, but I can’t be bothered to find out more myself. I do think not knowing who Dick Clark is is way more forgiveable — and way less indicative of a general crisis in knowledge and education — than not knowing the sinking of the Titanic was a real event. That said, in both cases, there’s an underlying lack of inquisitiveness that appears to be the larger problem. After all, we’re all ignorant about some things (a point Garber also makes) — it’s what we do with that ignorance that matters. Does it motivate us to learn, or do we just shrug in the face of it and move on?

What do you think?

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