I believe it is important to have an opinion. I even like to share mine on this blog every week! And while an opinion is not a text book or a Wikipedia listing, but an interpretation or a perspective, it is very important that such opinion is based on the truth. In a world where access to information is better than ever before, it is increasingly important to establish whether information is true and accurate.
In last week’s blog, I touched on the importance of being carbon conscious when it comes to choosing glass for wine bottles. Since then I talked to some other industry sources to see if there are ways to work together and be more wise in our packaging choices. How do we address the issue of imported bottles, for instance, having to cross oceans to get to South Africa, while we have a local glass supply. But I learned an interesting new fact! These well-traveled bottles often still have a lower carbon footprint than glass manufactured in South Africa! Why? Because the imported green and brown glass bottles predominantly used for wine, are made from a much higher percentage recycled glass compared to South African production. Without having the correct information, it would be very easy to form an incorrect opinion on the matter.
Knowing the facts before voicing your opinion does, however, do more than saving you from a red face. Sharing fake news on social media makes you part of smear campaigns and instigating hysteria, even when you’re rather innocent. Social media is an important communication tool and when the information is true and correct and not focused on sensation, it is a very effective way to spread the news. Managing all the “journalists” sharing their interpretations is of course just about impossible.
The reaction to the Corona virus is a good example. Being correctly informed about its dangers will enable you to make good decisions when it comes to your travel schedule, everyday health practices and getting tests done if necessary. Getting caught up in incorrect and sensational reporting might have you running for the closest bomb shelter with a trolley or two stacked with soap.
Even before the days of social media, it was important to evaluate information. Sometimes news is not fake, but it needs to be analysed and interpreted. Leading up to Black Thursday and the Wall Street Crash of 1929, reports also required interpretation. “Shortly before the crash, economist Irving Fisher famously proclaimed, “Stock prices have reached what looks like a permanently high plateau.” At about the same time, another financial expert Roger Babson declared “a crash is coming, and it may be terrific”. (Read more) Today we know who was right, but at the time, readers of the Wall Street Journal and New York Times had to form an opinion and base their stock market behaviour on what was reported in the news. (Read more).
It is easy to get swept up in sensation and while the media has a responsibility to be accurate and objective, ultimately you can always interpret information better when you have a holistic view, when you are well-read and informed and discuss big issues with experts. It doesn’t mean that you can’t make up your own mind of course, but sharing ill-considered thoughts and ideas in today’s day and age is not only negative for yourself, but can have a much wider effect than anticipated.
An opinion and the ability to share it, is an important human right and freedom of speech is an essential part of any constitution. And I do believe that society is getting more savvy with the interpretation of information and the elimination of fake news. An opinion and the ability to share it, is an important human right and freedom of speech is an essential part of any constitution. And I do believe that society is getting more savvy with the interpretation of information and the elimination of fake news. We need to be aware, though, readily available information gives us more opportunity to have an opinion, but it definitely also comes with more responsibility.