We are all a compilation of our experiences. Many studies have shown it begins in the womb. Sound crazy? Maybe. I took it seriously as a new mother when I found out I was pregnant. It was my mission in life to expose my baby to a multitude of foods, music and experiences, “just in case”.
I learned fairly quickly certain foods were not an option. I could deal with not enjoying the taste but not the nausea or vomiting they invited.
I believed my daughter could hear and feel everything I did. And through that lense her own thoughts and beliefs would begin. Of course, there’s no question that happens from birth. We can’t help but be molded by our family, friends and educators. We are immersed in their reference points and attitudes. Their perspective is indelibly imprinted. Aristotle was quoted as saying,“Give me your child until he is seven and I will show you the man.”
So how can we broaden our viewpoint and see beyond indoctrinated beliefs? Information. It is harder to succeed at manipulating people to any bias when facts are freely available and blatant lies exposed for what they are- propaganda and hate. Even when information is shut down and so censored that only one view is disseminated a whiff of truth can encourage the embers of dissent.
It’s impossible to diminish or deny-
A grandparent who shares the devastating stories of scars and loss their grandparents suffered at the hands of slave owners.
Or the families split apart and destroyed when thrown into Japanese internment camps.
Or Indigenous Americans forced to live on reservations.
Or the Holocaust that murdered 6 million Jews when confronted by a tattooed victim who lost everyone and everything.
That’s the thing about knowledge, it’s an eye opener. Maybe not initially. It might take some time to percolate and simmer before it prompts further investigation.
Data makes you question and start to think about hard and fast rules you just accepted. About groups of people. About other places.
It’s hard to remain cloistered when the world around us is changing, especially if the world is accessible by the touch of a button.
Lies aren’t a strong foundation. They can be dispelled with facts causing the house of cards they built to topple with the slightest wind. When facts can no longer be suppressed or manipulated knowledge always wins out. Unless that’s all you see. Just like the Berlin Wall, if you didn’t look over it, you’d never know that the claims that nothing lived beyond the wall were false.
Now, anyone can say anything they want without consequences. They can claim a wonder cure for ails and bilk millions of dollars from those desperate to believe before it’s exposed. Or state lies and claims to manipulate outcomes for personal reasons. When everyone has an agenda the question becomes- where do I go to get trusted information I can depend on? Now more than ever, we need truthful answers, facts- information that can be verified, validated and reproduced.
In the Netflix documentary on social media- “The Social Dilemma,” Tristan Harris, a retired design ethicist for Google, describes it as akin to a million “Truman Shows”. It was a movie starring Jim Carrey from 1998 that depicted a TV show centered around a baby who was watched by millions as he grows to adulthood, unaware everything he sees and experiences is fed to him by the producers. Now, we all live within a “Truman Show” designed and set up to feed us only what we and others want us to hear. Nothing else gets through. How can we dispute or even question data if we don’t know anything else exists?
Instead of the internet opening our eyes to truth, the beauty and breadth of its accessible data can be manipulated and fed to steer us down the path others want us to find. It’s not easy to distinguish if a site is legitimate when there are so many that look real and claim they are accurate. Be an active participant. Seek out how to regulate your device settings so that multiple perspectives are represented when you do a search. Look for trusted sites that have a reputation for integrity and honesty. Those that have a proven track record over years, not months, like medical reports from the New England Journal of Medicine, the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Mayo Clinic, the Harvard Medical Press. Seek out respectable and hard earned reputations for accuracy in whatever field you’re investigating such as the Kelly Blue Book for automobiles, Consumer Reports and the above agencies for medical issues.
Look for unbiased, non partisan sites. For news I turn to APS, NPR, Reuters, PBS news services and weather.com. Almost every site I could find that ranked news sources according to bias, either left or right, found these to be consistently neutral.
Find data backed up by other experts in the field. Learn who wrote the piece, their credentials and expertise. I reject anything that’s anonymous. If they aren’t willing to put their name and credentials behind their words how can they be reliable? Do they really exist when Googled? Are the links they use to support their claims also reputable and respected? Research the website and see what other sites are associated with it by plopping their website address into a search engine.
Results will show other sites that have been linked back to the website you’re researching and can help you gauge its reliability. Does the site openly admit any bias? Every medical paper published must state any bias or inherent conflict that may have impacted their findings. Such as being paid by big tobacco to dispel concerns that vaping is harmful or being a shareholder of the company.
Make sure you’re getting the most up to date information-news develops rapidly, so an article from even last week may not have all the facts.
Do your own fact-checking. Friends, family and patients mean well. I am constantly getting forwarded emails, regarding medical issues, that tout quick fixes for everything – chronic pain, memory loss, erectile dysfunction. But they are bogus and just trying to sell something. More malicious ones try to manipulate data to argue a point of view.
I know when these aren’t truthful and accurate. But outside of the medical field I’m just as desperate to understand how to find the truth. Too often we enjoy sitting in a bubble being fed what we want to hear. Disputing long held beliefs or questioning fortified foundations isn’t easy. Being proactive is exhausting and time consuming. But it’s the only way we’ll stop letting others define the narrative. Whoever controls the information stream controls the world. I’m done letting a few decide what I see and hear.