GOING by what appears to be popular on online social networking sites and the pattern of inane Internet sensations, it is almost tempting to give in to the idea that society is rapidly becoming mindless. Comments on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram don't have to be intelligent or deep to garner massive amounts of likes, retweets, or fans; in fact, the simpler the comment ("Hungreh. Nasi lemak or KFC?"), the more response it is likely to get. Deep, soul-searching debate on the state of the environment, nation or even education system, does not draw big crowds. Which leads to the question: is society in general getting stupid?
Perhaps the better question should be: has society always been this stupid? Is there an increase in interest in the inane, or are we just noticing it all now? The proliferation and continued prosperity of tabloid newspapers, gossip magazines and penny paperbacks -- well before the advent of the Internet -- suggests that humans have always been enamoured of the inane. But the Internet, with its visitor tracking, hits, likes and links, makes it possible to register the volume and specificity of this interest. Now, more than ever, what we like and what we don't like is more visible.
The Internet and its generous provision of space give users a platform with which to broadcast their opinions -- no matter how mundane -- to like-minded strangers. Ordinary people with un-extraodinary talents who would never have been given any space in newspapers or television, are able to share, in excruciating detail, their daily activities; not only because they have the forum, but also because the Internet cultivates a culture of free expression, so expressing one's shallowness has become more acceptable.
But where do we go from here? Do we surrender to this reality? Should we pander to it? For instance, if stories on sex and the supernatural sell better than an analysis of a governmental policy, should all newspapers convert to tabloidism, instead? Should stories be simplified and presented in bite-sized form to cater to shrinking attention span? Should the elders in society resign themselves to saying, "This is what the Internet generation is interested in", and submit to the majoritarianism of the mindless? Or should society strive to inculcate a culture that values intelligent thought and scholarship among the masses? If the Internet generation is indulged in its inanity, will they have the depth of thought to debate on national issues that concern their future? Will they know, or care, to elect good and intelligent leaders? Critical thinking must be inculcated from childhood, and critical thought encouraged and given freedom to flourish.