Getting A Deal

More Information Isn’t Always Better

Recently, I received along with a prescription, 17 fold-out pages of what was termed a “Medication Guide.” It was mostly in small print dealing with being careful in taking the prescription, and included obscure reiterations of multiple possible side effects. It was written in legalese and I expect that a lot of it was related to “defensive medicine” to head-off future lawsuits and litigation.

What it exemplified for me though is the propensity in our culture today to overpower people with information. Somehow if we issue one more warning or give people multiple reasons to do or not do something… we think we are advancing the cause of common humanity.

Other illustrations come to mind. Beer and wine companies are required to print disclaimers on their bottles about the dangers of drinking during pregnancy.

Does anyone really read that warning? Most women that I know who have become pregnant stop drinking because they know it could affect the health of their baby or have been so advised by their doctor–not because they read a warning on a beer can or wine bottle.

Where does all of this stop? Should we label water bottles with the warning that if one consumes too much too quickly, they could drown?

Many menus at fast food outlets now have the estimated calories listed for each sandwich. Similar information is printed on bags of potato chips. Yet, that has never stopped someone from taking the “deal” when you can get two for the price one! Getting a good deal is a part of our culture. Apparently printing information on calories has not resulted in healthier living… more Americans are becoming obese than ever before.

More information does not necessarily result in healthier behavior.

When it comes to mental health, I think the same principle applies. The Internet has opened up thousands of new information sources including the newly-termed “fake news” outlets. Television no longer has a few channels, there are hundreds of channels.

Has this resulted in better human understanding and interaction?

In my view, the crush of information can result in people becoming more insular and isolated. Individuals tend to go to the sites and channels which support their opinions and views, not necessarily to ones that will broaden their understanding or horizons.

Of course, opining about all of this may be akin to Don Quixote “tilting at windmills.” Why talk or write about it if nothing is going to change? The only answer I can give is that knowledge has a value in its own right. If we aware of how things are changing in our culture, we may have a chance to become better citizens.

Rolland Kidder is a Stow resident.