It’s easy to say, “I don’t understand the difference” or “They are all as bad as each other” as an excuse to not have to try to inform yourself, but what use is this?
You can turn a blind eye and hide from what you don’t want to see/hear - but you can’t hide from it forever, and it will most likely come to bite you. This is relevant for work and life.
We all hold our own opinions regardless of what we believe, and I will explain the importance of informing yourself further instead of sitting on the fence on important matters.
A Simple, but Relevant Example
Picture a population of people, say 1 million, who have been told to vote for or against an amendment to their constitution. The majority vote wins.
25% of people are strongly for the change, and 25% are strongly against the change.
15% of people are leaning towards voting yes, but aren’t quite sure, and another 15% of people are leaning towards a no vote but want to inform themselves more first.
The final 20% of people can’t be bothered. They are voting to avoid a fine; let’s call them the wilfully uninformed. They plan to make a spur-of-the-moment decision and decide yes/no right before they vote.
Leading up to this vote - the 15% for/against make a big effort to inform themselves to make a more informed decision. To keep this analogy nice and simple, let’s say their research leads them to confirm their initial feelings.
Now, we have 40% for and 40% against the change. We are left with the wilfully uninformed.
This is where it gets interesting.
Because the wilfully uninformed are too lazy to do any productive research, in the days leading up to the vote, they take to social media to see who’s been saying what and to trick themselves into believing they did their best to make an informed decision.
What’s the trouble with this approach?
The wilfully uninformed decision is now at the mercy of an algorithm. There are two important factors to take into consideration:
- Which group is spending more on targeted advertising?
- What does the wilfully informed past internet activity tell the algorithm about their voting preference?
Think about how those two factors could affect your decision…
What you see online is governed by an algorithm that shows you what you want, not what you need to see. The more polarising the content online, the greater the chance of it appearing on your feed for you to read/listen to.
Considering you went online to inform yourself about your decision, what you see and read will impact your decision-making - especially if you do not have a strong opinion or belief to compare what you are listening to.
Now, let's consider the different agendas of these groups and certain vocal individuals and the fact that fake news spreads faster than the truth. It’s scary to think about the potential implications of this.
The wilfully uninformed decision is decided by what the internet algorithm pushes out, influencing the final result.
If a corrupt regime had more resources to expend on media advertising and content, it would likely influence the decision of the wilfully uninformed in their favour.
This may sound like a very simple example, but you can read more about real-world examples:
The Final Takeaway
Avoid getting all your information from a single source; read widely and think critically about what you see and hear.
Ask hard questions, and be brave enough to answer them.
It's the little things that find us out; the little things we ignore to avoid doing the big things that can save us.