Sure, cat videos aren’t, themselves, increasing our knowledge or our ability to read and write. But what they are doing is helping us to differentiate between good content on the web, and the bad content. And that’s only a good thing.
Writer Clay Shirky addresses the issue of being able to write without any boundaries in an article in the Wall Street Journal. In this article, he argues that as new publishing formats become available allowing more people to publish their own opinions, they are increasingly congested by poor, uneducated writing.
But, as the formats mature and people mature, they are becoming increasingly more and more refined. Clay notes that such things as Wikipedia and open-source software have not only allowed for a greater spread of ideas, they have also helped keep a lot of those ideas alive. Regardless of how often people criticize Wikipedia and other open-source projects for the fact that anyone can edit them, they are still important in allowing us to more competently filter out bad or incorrect information.
Still, the internet is (and will always be) full of stupid things. But stupid, silly, meaningless things are important too. So, while those cat videos may not make you smarter, live guilt-free knowing they are not necessarily making you dumb, either.
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