The age of social media has made limitless information readily accessible to the masses. Via platforms such as Twitter, Wikipedia, and Google, laypeople are able not only to consume knowledge on any subject imaginable, but also to challenge professionals in those fields and fueled a disdain for legitimate credibility. Tom Nichols argues this point in his new book “The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters.”

“It’s really the death of the idea of expertise, of relying on experts,” said Nichols when he joined Adam Reilly on “Greater Boston.” “There will always … be people who know how to do surgery or know how to negotiate a treaty or know how to defend you in a courtroom … what’s different now is that people reject the idea that those people know any more than anybody else.”

While the idea of refuting authority is hardly a new one, Nichols contends that the influence of the internet has exacerbated the frequency with which it occurs, especially now that the majority of the population carries “little answer boxes” at all times. Websites like Twitter sweeten the appeal by offering users the option to assume faceless online personas, lighting confrontational fires and then stoking them, with little chance of repercussion.

“It’s not just that people think they’re learning everything they need to know from the internet,” said Nichols, “but the anonymity of social media makes people really mean and argumentative about it, and I think that that’s added to this problem in general.”

Additionally, people feel more emboldened in public settings to dispute the opinions of trained professionals. Nichols described a phenomenon that doctors call “paging Dr. Google,” whereby patients contest prognoses based on findings of their own internet research. Academic institutions, too, have seen the line between instructors and learners blurred, largely based on what Nichols refers to as a client-centric campus culture of keeping students content and unperturbed.

“Increasingly, students are very comfortable lecturing their faculty,” explained Nichols, adding that questioning authority is indeed a healthy part of adolescent development. “But again, the phenomenon of the death of expertise is that the students are stepping forward and saying, ‘I actually know more about this than the teachers,’ on day one.”

Nichols, a professor of national security at the U.S. Naval War College and expert in Russian affairs, was compelled to write “The Death of Expertise” when the stories he would hear of other specialists being questioned and doubted began to feature in his own life and work.

“It actually started during the [Edward] Snowden affair, when we were talking about … what I was arguing was Russia’s role, and people were saying to me, ‘Tom, let me explain Russia to you,’” said Nichols. “And, of course, now, it’s happening over again with the Russian influence on the election.”

The election in question saw Donald Trump assume the role of president of the United States after a campaign in which he had acted as an antithesis to traditional thinking and a champion of the poorly educated. The rhetoric used by Trump, a vocal Twitter presence himself, appears to have validated the practices of online argumentation and skepticism for a number of social media users.

“There are culprits across the ideological spectrum, but unfortunately the president is the loudest voice in the room,” said Nichols. “The worst thing he did was to scapegoat experts because, I think, he’s finding … as every president does, you can’t run a government without experts.”

Another culprit, Nichols explained, is the myriad cable news channels whose programming is saturated with loud, animated disagreements. Despite the merits of offering such a varied array of viewpoints, viewers invariably become selective with the news they consume, and begin to take it as gospel.

“People can now watch anything at any moment,” said Nichols. “There is more diversity in the sources of news, but it also means that people graze to find the things they actually want to hear … they cherry-pick the news, and every network can tailor that stream to a particular kind of demographic.”

To watch the full interview with Tom Nichols, click on the video link above.