A Generation of Experts
We live in the Google era. We can research anything in a matter of milliseconds.
We check news streams 24/7. We scroll through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter constantly. The amount of data at our fingertips is estimated over 4.4 zettabytes, what does this mean in non-I.T. terms? That if you filled up 343.75 BILLION iPhone 7's (128gb version) full of information that you still wouldn't have enough space to store all the data. AND it is estimated that 2.5 exabytes are created everyday, or 90 years worth of HD video. AKA that is flipping insane. There is no more theories about information overload, we are living in information overload, every second of our day.
With all this information being created everyday, we have a grand opportunity to be experts on many issues, topics, and events. However, I am not sure that we all choose the path to be experts. We have the problem of sorting through information like Google does. We use a few keywords, look for related keywords, and formulate answers on keywords. There is nothing inherently wrong with this, however when we formulate opinions on issues or events based off of keywords, we lose the true value of the information. The true value is not the excess or speed of information, but the humanity of information. Both the perfection and imperfection of information. We only become opinionated bigots.
In my entire life, I have been surrounded by volumes of people's opinions about issues in the world and my own life. I have greatly enjoyed these opinions and take into account a lot of the advice I can gather from these people. However, as our world becomes even more polarized, I question the validity and expertise of these opinions that have shaped my life. Don't get me wrong, we all need this input to understand our place in this world. However, what makes a Christian the expert on homosexuality or an American the expert on affairs in the Middle East or a rural person the expert on the Chicago crime rate? There are certainly people who are experts on these fields and still fit in other categories, but most peoples' opinions that we get on social media and comment sections of news sites, aren't experts on the issues that surround us.
Personally I follow the teachings of the Stoics when it comes to formulating my opinions and I think we all should. Stoics taught that opinions were a source of misery and that opinions turn objective situations into an emotion situation even when they do not necessarily need an emotion. I am not saying that you should not have opinions on issues, but be careful of how you share those opinions. I ask myself a few questions before even formulating a decision on an issue or event.
“Do I really know what is going on?”
“Do I have personal experience or am "closer than friends" with someone who does?”
“Does my opinion change the outcome of this situation?”
For many issues, your answers should be no. Being opinionated about everything can lead to us becoming insensitive to both sides and ignoring the problem in front of us. If you do answer no to these questions, then make it a yes. Find someone who is dealing first hand with this issue and talk to them face to face. Bring it up as friends, don’t argue their opinion. Their opinion or expertise is much more valid than your opinion. If you still are curious at this point, go find someone on the opposite side or someone that can answer yes to all those questions. Then, only if your opinion can truly change the outcome (Facebook posts don’t count) state your opinion in a public place.
We all know a lot of people that are full of hatred over the issues dividing the United States and World today. This post is not an excuse to idly sit by while discrimination or injustice occurs, this post is about exercising your opinions and expertise in a way that can change the world. In a world of information overload, people are developing strong, invalid opinions over the news, fake news, and opinions of thousands of others on social media. This information is great, but also comes with many issues. Not everyone processes the information in a way that concludes in objective opinions, not everyone forms their own opinions. One of the largest issues of social media is the “emotional disconnect” in which we all face on a variety of issues.
Therefore, before posting posting or reposting an emotion-filled post that you think is fire. Ask yourself those three questions? Make them yeses. And then find a way to make change and not add fuel to the fire. We have a unique opportunity to be a generation of experts, but this is not merely enough. We have to be a generation of doers.