The Internet is amazing.
The entirety of human knowledge in your pocket is an advantage that few people can comprehend, and one that most people take for granted! It does however come with drawbacks.
I am not a fan of peanut butter. I will eat it if required, but if given a choice I will avoid it. Not because of the taste, but because it causes cancer! I also avoid drinking water, because drinking water can kill you! And Elon Musk’s Space X program is only a vehicle to allow the worlds billionaires to evacuate the earth in the face of global warming!
These all sound ridiculous, but believe it or not, there are websites out there talking about them! Did you notice the links? Did you click on them? The fact that there are links at all makes them seem more legitimate, but that doesn’t actually make them legitimate.
If you clicked the links, how closely did you look at the information? Where did they get their information? How old is it? Was the information there actually supporting their argument? Did the link work at all? There are many ways to confuse us and the information we receive, but also many ways to confirm the information we look at. Most people don’t though, for one of two reasons: “We’re lazy”, and (more insidiously) “We want to believe it.”
The truth is, we have forgotten how to think (or at least think objectively) and it is more critical now than ever, that we look closely at “the facts” we are given.
You might not realize it, but search engines have programs designed to feed us results we might want to see, or that people have paid to have fed to us! That results in different search results depending on your search history, trending searches, and even your geographical location. The end result is that if you do an information search, you are not guaranteed to get results that are accurate. In fact, its quite likely that you will end up with information that confirms your beliefs, than conflicts with them.
The Internet is also amazing for connecting people, but there too we need to be careful. The latest estimate is that Facebook has 2.7 billion users. Its very likely that if you have a fringe belief that you will be able to find a group of people that believe the same, and it’s more likely they’ll reinforce your beliefs than challenge them. The Flat Earth Society Facebook Page has 45K members. That may seem like a lot, but it’s only 0.0017% of Facebook users. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are wrong (Spoiler alert: they are), but you can’t base the validity of information solely upon how many people are talking about it on social media.
The amount of information at our fingertips is staggering!! The amount of BULLSHIT on the Internet is even more so! We need to learn how to sift through all of it and focus on solid facts. Confirmation bias is one of the most dangerous things to avoid. The most sure sign that you need to double check a fact, is if it aligns with your beliefs perfectly!