Are We Reading Too Much Between The Lines

Reading between the lines is a phrase that loosely means, to grasp what has been left unsaid, to uncover the truth behind the half-truths. In the past, it was an intelligent trait that only a few wise people possessed. The ability to read between the lines was a highly respected quality, people flocked to such wise ones for advice. By closely observing the body language, past history on the matter, the attitude of people involved and other socio-economic situations at that given point, one would make an educated guess about the intended meaning and unsaid story in a message.

The reason that I have raised this point today is that I have noticed that nowadays, we have stopped listening to what is being said. We see social media platforms abound with crazy conspiracies and theories that are based on seemingly innocuous interviews, discussion and press tours etc. Even mainstream media has stopped reporting facts and started producing conjectures and their analysis of what is said rather than giving us a chance to decide for ourselves.

We are so busy looking for the underlying message that we have stopped listening to what is being said. When we listen to someone speak, we closely observe every minute change in expressions, variation in pitch, tone of voice, line of vision of the speakers etc. Every time we see any fluctuations, we scramble to decode its meaning. We argue and debate to find an explanation. When we find it most of the time, it is the most perverse and unreasonable explanation we can think of.

As a result of all this ‘reading between the lines’, simple conversations are a thing of the past. Slowly reading between the lines got transformed into conspiracy theorizing. This intelligent quality got morphed into the petty and unhinged babbling of a conspiracist. You can visit any of the social media platforms and get 10 different versions and analysis of the same interview. While one site reads the meaning behind the message as a prediction of doomsday, another theorizes it as a ray of hope, and someone else says something totally tangential to both. Everyone tries to connect the dots to create different images while the viewer is left with a headache.

I miss the good old days when news channels only reported news and left the analysis to us. They stated only facts and the storytelling was left for grandmas. I miss the days when only a few wise souls could ‘Read between the lines’.

Is The Internet a Knowledge Hub In The True Sense

The virtues and dangers of the Internet is a topic of discussion that has been done to death. People have made very strong arguments for and against the impact of the internet on youth. So, when I speak of this issue, I am not talking about anything new. I am only sharing my story about our dependence on it and the way our dependency is turning into our weakness.

When I was in school, the internet was still in its nascent stage. It was still an unknown entity and we were not aware of its uses. During this time we were given a project about the seven wonders of the world. Back then, I had to go to the good old library and refer to different encyclopedias to collect information about them. Some of the structures on this list did not exist anymore. The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, The Lighthouse of Alexandria etc. were destroyed long before man invented photography. The discussion that we had in class was about the validity of such structures being deemed as wonders. We grumbled about spending precious time in the library to research something that we could not see. As part of the research, I spent more time reading other facts on World wars, European architecture, psychology etc. It was an informative project for totally different reasons.

At the end of the project, I learnt more than just the seven wonders. That was the beauty of going to the library. I went there to research on one topic but, ended up gathering information on many others. I also formed my own opinion on them. For example, while referencing about the Taj Mahal, I found out about the pollution from the industries and the river Yamuna. While researching on river pollution, I found out about the factories that dump waste and the apathy of the government. 

Nowadays, we turn to the internet for all our information and research. In theory, I should have access to more information on the internet while having the same ease in obtaining facts on any topic, issue, or subject. Well, I was in for a surprise. While I researched on the internet, I found bare minimum facts, but more of conspiracies, people’s opinions, theories to support one thought process or the other etc. 

I found that, on the internet, I was not given information to form my own opinion, but I was being fed other people’s opinions. One website felt that the Taj Mahal was being destroyed because of industrial effluents and not vehicular or air pollution. Another article blamed the ravages of time and natural deterioration. Some blamed the government, some blamed the rampant tourism. Even the most acclaimed article hinted subtly towards a communal angle for the deterioration.

The reason for the destruction of Taj Mahal is just a smokescreen. The main focus of the articles is to spread the propaganda or the thought process of specific groups. I am sorely disappointed with the lack of correct and complete information. The example I quote of the Taj Mahal is just to show that the internet has become a place to promote one’s ideology rather than a place of knowledge and information. People are using it to spread incorrect information and confuse the truth with various smokescreens. It is important for everyone to recognise facts from opinions, truth from propaganda and information from conspiracies.