Our Biggest Success ... And Failure

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BOSTON (WBZ-AM) -- I had the headphones on while walking Buddy the Lab in the heat yesterday, and heard part of some comedian’s act where he’s joking about the Phil Donahue Show.

Remember him?

Donahue was an early mass-market pioneer of confessionalism, in which his guests aired out their deepest secrets as Donahue probed the social issue of the day, or pretended to. It’s a trend that’s been building for a long time in our culture, the notion that sharing is always good, that any issue can be resolved by simply talking about it, that there is no such thing as too much information.

The Donahue show was long gone by the time the internet and social media elevated confessionalism to a whole new prominence.

And just as viewers eventually tired of his act, there are signs that Americans are getting sick of our relentless over-sharing.

As Boston Globe columnist Michael Brodeur points out, social-media sharing has “awakened a new sense of public accountability – but that accountability extends to what we share.”

By sharing garbage on Facebook and other sites we’ve fouled our information stream and polluted our democracy. Platforms like Twitter have expanded everyone’s forum, but it turns out that “everyone” includes vile racists and misogynists, fake conspiracy theory peddlers, bullies and scam artists…and some, I’m sure, are good people.

When sharing culture brings people and issues out of the shadows, promotes truth and exposes common denominators we share, it’s a good thing.

When it promotes evil, it isn’t.

Sharing that happens without thinking or caring doesn’t build knowledge or community; it destroys them.

Yet another way in which our greatest technological innovation has turned into our riskiest bet.

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. Listen to his previous podcasts on iHeartRadio. 

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Keller @ Large

Keller @ Large

Jon Keller is a WBZ TV & Radio political analyst. Read more

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