In the fantasy dystopia world that Fahrenheit 451 describes, books gradually lose value over time. As society began to move at a fast pace (cars run so fast that billboards must be up to 60 meters long to read), the words begin to become slow and dull, especially with the emergence of new forms of communication. People prefer to stay home and watch the “living room walls” – huge TV screens – or go to sports instead of reading books. Publishers shorten increasingly shorter books to fit the short-term focus of the reader.
In the end, the government simply banned books altogether, on the grounds that without reading long and “indigestible” things people would be happier.
Take a look at the current media landscape. Such a society is not too far away from us.
Articles and books are getting shorter and shorter (or replaced by videos) to please the so-called “Long; No Read ”for things longer than 500 words. News and debate are only encapsulated in a few sound clips or transmitted through tweets with only 140 characters.
Many people shake their heads at this trend and act as if they are driven by the forces of darkness and greedy media corporations. Those “people” are the ones who are guilty.
The truth is that media companies also want to make money. But they can only do so when the user requests. If users want stupid, short content, those things will be produced. Websites will not create “clickbait” messages if it does not work.
In fact, not these companies, but we ourselves are responsible for the communication. Me, you and others. Where you pay attention, what do you pay for, the things you click, share decide the content from the manufacturer.
If you select quality things by clicking, you will get them. If you want quick pieces of information, people will produce it incessantly.
Until at some point, as in Bradbury’s novel, all information that became too trivial and seemed useless, could be completely banned and only evoke a shrugged shoulder.
The truth is meaningless if outside the context on Fahrenheit 451
Stuffing them with non-burning data, they choked and satiated with flashy ‘facts’ and flashy ‘news’. Then they will find themselves thinking, they will have the feeling of movement that turned out to stand still. And they will be happy because such ‘facts’ will not change. Do not give them things like philosophy or sociology to bind them. In it all contained sadness.
Our modern society is obsessed with receiving information, mostly in the form of media and Internet articles. We think that reading the news (usually just the headline) and updating what happens to Facebook friends makes us feel like a knowledgeable citizen.
And in some ways, yes. Obviously, knowing some of the news, though vague, is better than nothing. The problem is that just reading the news or reading the online newspaper will bring you a lot of different ‘facts’ about the same issue. It is difficult to know who to trust, and how to have the right perspective on a problem. Instead of thinking very hard and to do this, we simply press the “Share” button after reading its title – which gives us new information.
In the current world, being “know” doesn’t mean much, or makes you different. Simply knowing is not enough, even if you feel that way. As Bradbury wrote above, when you are “fed” the information, you will feel satisfied and intelligent. But is that really the case?
The world doesn’t get better or better by just learning more. It is things like philosophy or sociology that can make progress in thought and action. It is deep reflection that is the instrument that shapes our spiritual world.
As Montag’s mentor said:
He didn’t need a book to do anything, what he needed was what was once inside the book … There was no magic at all. The only magic is what the books say, they sew the pieces of the universe together to make our clothes.
You do not need more information. You need another way to connect the world.
An example is our diet, which is called the paleo diet. Lots of meat/seafood, nuts, greens … This is based on information that says foods like these are things our ancestors – who were healthier than modern overweight descendants. – have eaten.
But things are not as simple as that. Prehistoric people had a rich diet based on what they hunted for seasonal food, instead of eating the same things every day. People who lived 100,000 years ago were sometimes hungry and ate foods that went extinct or far different from what we see now.
Moreover, who can be sure that a prehistoric diet is suitable for everyone in the 21st century? Everyone has different eating needs. With just a little more historical context, archeology and modern nutrition, we can see a completely different picture from what we “know”.
So how to see the world through different lenses, connecting information instead of just accumulating attention?
Read a lot, both fiction and nonfiction. Consider multiple aspects of a problem, or take it a step further – ignore it all and create your own point of view (based on arguments). Explore many areas such as biology, philosophy, psychology, sociology, physics – making more efforts in understanding how the world works instead of mass culture. A classic Greek book can help you understand the modern world more than an eye-catching news headline on the Internet.