No one can be blamed for having an emotional response to the strange times we’re living in. But emotion against a background of reason is different to emotional excess. I can’t help but feel that conspiracy theories, coups and the foolish acceptance of false news, often indicate some kind of hysteria in our society and with it, a lack of critical thinking.
More than the political agendas, economic struggles and global tragedies that we’ve witnessed in our lifetimes, the Covid pandemic affects us all personally. It threatens our own lives and those of whom we hold dear. It brings a lot of uncertainty – both from its very own makeup to how it is affecting our way of life. To some degree, we are all a bit scared, stressed and worried. But still, I am amazed at how easily we allow ourselves, in this information age, to fall victim to false news and incitement.
It is ignorant to be dismissive about what happens on social media. Social media has become a barometer of what happens in society. But with access to more information, we have an increased responsibility to be critical. Often the most noise on social media comes from empty vessels or those with an agenda, who wants to benefit from spreading false news. We can’t allow ourselves a moment’s respite when it comes to critical thinking. Identifying misleading information can be difficult and it is easy to get swept up in sensation. But being careful is crucial. Sharing ill-considered ideas might not only leave you with a red face, it can have a much broader impact than anticipated.
Even when it comes to formal media sources responsible for accurate and objective reporting, it is important to be critical in your interpretation. Stop yourself from having an emotional response. Make sure that you are well-informed as it is easier to interpret information accurately when you have a holistic view. But even when the reaction is not emotional and the reference is well-informed, being critical when it comes to interpretation is essential. Apply your mind. Ask questions. Read a variety of opinions. Be fair.
Criticalthinking.org defines critical thinking as: “… the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skilfully conceptualizing, applying, analysing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness.”
If only we could manage that!