OMG 6,000 Flights Cancelled!

In his compelling book The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains, Nicholas Carr makes the case that the avalanche of information available to us through multiple media channels 24/7/365 is, in fact, making us dumber.

It seems that setting context, the ability to recognize circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed, gets lost.

In the world today, headlines and intense images all around us scream out and are portrayed as the way things are.

I regularly see this in the classroom, where students will state something as fact because they merely “saw it on” MSNBC, FOX, CNBC, etc. or “heard it” on talk radio.

Illusion and hype make us shallow in how we think and minimize our capacity to critically assess a given situation.

For example, over the weekend, headlines blared that more than 6,000 commercial flights were cancelled due to the big snowstorm back East.

OMG 6,000 flights cancelled!

If hype wasn’t driving the story, we would have learned that over the four days of the storm the U.S. air transport system safely handled more than 110,000 flights.

In other words, “one of the biggest winter storms ever to hit the Eastern seaboard” caused the cancellation of less than 6% of all flights in the U.S.

Now, of course, this headline wouldn’t have grabbed people’s attention and moved them to look at advertisements for the latest innovations in dish soap, anti-depressants, and dog food.

If illusion and hype can be so easily deployed to shock us about boring airline flight schedules, what other things that are truly important in our lives can also get manipulated; if we're not careful?

About the Author

Andrew R. Thomas Blog | Associate Professor of Marketing and International Business

Andrew R. Thomas, Ph.D., is associate professor of marketing and international business at the University of Akron; and, a member of the core faculty at the International School of Management in Paris, France.

He is a bestselling business author/editor, whose 23 books include, most recently, American Shale Energy and the Global Economy: Business and Geopolitical Implications of the Fracking Revolution, The Customer Trap: How to Avoid the Biggest Mistake in Business, Global Supply Chain Security, The Final Journey of the Saturn V, and Soft Landing: Airline Industry Strategy, Service and Safety.

His book The Distribution Trap was awarded the Berry-American Marketing Association Prize for the Best Marketing Book of 2010. Another work, Direct Marketing in Action, was a finalist for the same award in 2008.

Andrew is founding editor-in-chief of the Journal of Transportation Security and a regularly featured analyst for media outlets around the world.

He has traveled to and conducted business in 120 countries on all seven continents.

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