Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Problem With “Doing Your Own Research”

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Tim Wise writes on Medium:

The internet is a wonderful thing, and also the absolute worst thing ever.

On the one hand, it allows people to access information at the push of a button and then connect with others worldwide, even sharing that information if they’d like to do so.

On the other hand, it allows people to access information at the push of a button and then connect with others worldwide, even sharing that information if they’d like to do so.

Yes, the relative democratization of communication — compared to the days when gatekeepers more tightly limited the voices to which we might be exposed — is a welcome step in the direction of a more open society.

But at the same time, with more information also comes more noise. And with the ability to spread noise like never in human history, cacophony becomes the default position.

It seems wistful to remember the days of antiquity (also known as the 1990s), when getting your opinion heard required writing a letter to the editor of this thing called a newspaper and then waiting several days to see if it would be published. Or perhaps, if you were really ambitious, sending an entire essay or article to a magazine and then waiting for several weeks to discover the same.

As much as we complained about the difficulty of breaking through these mainstream media filters, I’m not sure if what replaced them is better.

Perhaps it would be fine had we even the most rudimentary skills at discerning truth from falsehood. But humans are not much on critical thinking, Americans least of all. We are a nation of image-crazed consumers and wanna-be “influencers,” actively hostile to critical thought and allergic to teaching such skills in school, lest we usurp the authority of parents to brainwash our children the way we see fit.

And so instead of developing the media literacy necessary to separate the factual wheat from the fictional chaff, millions just “do their own research,” by which they mean to tell you they:

1. Own a Google machine;
2. Have a lot of extra time on their hands; and,
3. Don’t actually know what research is.

Pro tip: research is not just a matter of looking stuff up.

It is not what you’re doing when conversing with anonymous people on Reddit, soaking in whatever StarShine77 has decided to offer up that morning.

It is not what you’re doing when scrolling through YouTube videos fed to you by an algorithm that is intentionally programmed to show you more of the same shit you were already watching and absolutely nothing that might contradict it.

It’s not what you’re doing when you pass around memes, with citations at the bottom like “U.S. Research Center,” which is not a real thing, and even if it were, that’s not a fucking citation, Grandpa.

But sadly, this is part of what it means to be American in the 21st century: to confuse having a right to an opinion with having a right to be taken seriously for whatever ass-backward opinion you have.

You’ll hear it all the time: “Well, I have a right to believe whatever I want, and you do too, and I guess we’ll just agree to disagree.”

No, cousin Judy, that’s not the end of it.

You can believe whatever codswallop floats your inner-tube, to be sure, but when it’s utter and complete horseshit, we won’t simply agree to disagree.

Agreeing to disagree is what we do when we debate who was the greatest Major League pitcher of all time, and you say Bob Gibson and I say Sandy Koufax — and we both could be right.

What we’re doing now, Mr. “The COVID vaccine will change your DNA and allow the government to track you,” is not that. It’s me, buying a calming shade of yellow interior wall paint with which to coat your bedroom and Googling “doctors near you that specialize in helping people with delusions.”

The idea that your opinion on a subject is equal to someone else’s, when that someone else has spent years studying and researching it (using more complex methods than refreshing their Facebook feed), is ridiculous.

Expertise is, in fact, a thing.

And yes, I know, sometimes experts disagree. Even physicians sometimes have different takes on the proper course of treatment for a given condition.

That’s why, when faced with such decisions, it’s good to get a second opinion.

But guess what? When you get that second opinion, from whom do you get it?

Another gotdamn doctor who went to a gotdamn medical school.

You do not get that second opinion about whether you need open-heart surgery to address your arterial blockage from KaleMomma420. Or rather, if you do, you deserve whatever happens to you.

Best of all is when . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

11 September 2021 at 6:43 pm

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