Robert Anton Wilson famously wrote about “reality tunnels” —- cultural belief systems that literally inform and shape how we see ‘reality’. We all live in our own little world, to a certain extent. Yet for society to function, for collaboration and cooperation to be possible, we need agreed upon ‘reality frameworks’. We need “consensus reality”, or objective truth. We need a set of facts that can’t be argued. Without these frameworks, we are lost at sea. One of the corrosive, unintended consequences of social media is a literal splintering of reality, where mainstream and ‘fringe-stream’ live on equal footing. The signals competing for our attention are overloading our reality filters and making us Digiphrenic, to use Douglas Rushkoff’s term. This “post-truth” world, fueled by partisan politics and corrosive, competing agendas, are having real consequences on how we orient ourselves and navigate in the world. The feeling is one of ontological uncertainty, where we have almost no reality anchors anymore. It’s dizzying and terrible. The viral pandemic has only magnified these trends and made them “go viral”, so to speak. Increasingly, I am struggling to distinguish facts from propaganda, sensible public health measures from draconian hysteria, science from groupthink — honestly it’s awful. Asking questions from both sides is considered heretical and is shut down immediately. Whatever happened to critical inquiry? In any case, I’m feeling the disorientation and only hope we can get our act together here.
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