Thursday, May 28, 2020

Brain Work

Idiocracy (2006)
We've always had to deal with rumors. Hearsay. Opinions pushed off as facts. The internet allows for the faster propagation of ideas, both good and bad. Critical thinking must be applied to weed through the chaff and we fail miserably at that.

I posted on my Facebook page about an article pointing out how photographers can take pictures a certain way that skews perception. Photogs will take a picture of a beach that shows it overcrowded and people not complying with social distancing, but when you look at it from another angle, everyone is pretty much compliant. The same thing happens with news articles and opinion pieces by media agencies. They'll spin a story in one direction, omitting important context and you've got people wanting heads to roll.

In the age of the internet, we've gotten lazy with thinking and when looking for answers. We reach for the article at the top of the page that has been positioned there by an algorithm. News articles show up in our Facebook feeds, chosen by algorithms and most of the time these algorithms don't pick it because it's factual. It's picked because it may have key words that might fit your demographic or you might find it interesting, though most of the time I don't think Facebook even really knows me.

We don't look to experts for guidance anymore, we look to Hollywood celebrities, athletes and Youtube stars. Facts be damned!

To weed out the bad ideas, we have to learn to become critical thinkers. Of course, critical thinking was never formally taught in school, at least not mine, but we are taught some critical thinking tenets. They just aren't labeled as such. After you grow up and get out of school you get lazy. You've got a job, family, kids. Or a nightlife. Or some other stress. Thinking! Ain't got time for that. So we rely on websites like Facebook and Twitter to do our fact-checking for us. As a society, a community, or a responsible citizen we should put on our big pants and do what it takes to form our own opinions and make our own decisions. That means search and find relevant articles from reputable news services. Apply a little critical thinking and come up with our own results. But that's hard work and few people are willing to put in the time to do that. It's just easier to share something that we've seen online.

I remember sitting across from a gentleman a few tables away at a restaurant recently and listening to him repeat pretty much everything I've seen on Facebook already. Not a single idea that was his own. Of course, he was a little liquored up but I'm sure it wouldn't have been any different if he was sober. We've become meme repeaters and we as a society are turning into the movie Idiocracy.

All I ask is that when faced with an article of news, just take a second to ask yourself a few questions. First of all, who published this? There are so many fake news sites that sometimes it's hard to distinguish them from the real news and it seems that some real news sites have an agenda. If it's a meme and it's touting that someone did something, then for Pete's sake, search and see if anyone else is reporting it. The first big clue is just that statement, "No one else is reporting on this!" Well, that's probably because it's not factual. Check it!

This has kind of turned into a rant, which was not my intention, but times have changed over the years and especially now, we need to embrace critical thinking and work our brains a little more. Below are a few articles to help you in this endeavor. One is a sort of cheat sheet and the other is for instilling critical thinking in kids. In fact, that one is just as good for adults as well. Enjoy!





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