To think or not to think; that is the question

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Opinion: You might be wrong and that's OK.

To think before you speak is a skill we all have been taught to some degree. But what does that skill look like in world where lies are more entertaining than the truth?

The spread of misinformation runs rampant in the age of the internet, making it increasingly difficult to discern true information from false. Although the internet is not a real place, the conversations we have seep into our everyday lives, ultimately affecting what and how we think. Whether it’s fake news or alternative facts, one thing is for certain, critical thinking is lacking.

Critical thinking is defined as the ability to think clearly with an open mind supported by a rigorous standard of evidence from verifiable sources. In other words, ask yourself; where, when, what, why and how. Where is the information coming from? When was it created? What is it trying to prove? Why is it being proven? How is it being proven?

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It sounds like a lot of work but once you begin to assess information this way, it becomes progressively easier to navigate a world where facts don’t matter. Unfortunately, not everyone practices this approach leading to potentially contentious interactions online and in person.

Recently, protests were held at the screening of Unplanned at King’s University College here in London. The controversial film takes you on an emotional roller coaster through the eyes of a Planned Parenthood director turned anti-abortion activist.

Meanwhile, already causing outrage in Alberta as it moves across Canada, Vaxxed II is a sequel to the successful documentary Vaxxed. It follows activists travelling the country to unmask what they say are injuries sustained from vaccinations.

The facts supporting both films are highly contested; Unplanned uses a disputed memoir while Vaxxed II uses a debunked scientific article as their premise to explore vaccinations. The opinions of many regarding these topics and the available space provided by the internet allowed for large support groups to congregate without question.

Digestible, bite-sized pieces of information became readily available and spread like wildfire through said groups. If it wasn’t for the support garnered online through the spread of misinformation, neither film would have as much success. Regardless of where you stand on either issue, it’s important to explore all sides of a topic through a critical lens before stating an opinion as fact.

There was a time where we could agree to disagree but not on today’s internet. Online we have created fragmented realities allowing us to essentially live in our own bubble. It’s fine for niche hobbies and activities but not viewpoints. These fragmented realities make it simpler to find support for your viewpoint than it is to research why you may be wrong. We don’t have to agree on everything but there must be a method to deduce information we all can agree upon otherwise, we fall victim to our own biases. This is where my fear lies.

There is power in numbers and everyone wants to be right. If an online opinion gathers enough support from people, who’s to say that support doesn’t translate into legislation now affecting everyone. It sounds far-fetched, but let’s asses the online conversations surrounding the coronavirus. The misinformation being spread is leading to loud enough racism prompting city, provincial, state and federal officials all over the world to speak up. Understandably, fear will do that to us but that’s not an excuse to be uninformed and misinformed.

It’s OK to be wrong, it’s OK to change your mind and it’s OK to not know or understand everything. What is not OK is to remain misinformed because you believe you’re right. Research, debate, discuss; this will force you to analyze your beliefs and opinions leading to a more critical thought process.

All in all, believe what you want to believe, but think critically before you speak... even on the internet.

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.