Revisiting: Understand the context of information important to you; reduce the fear and anxiety

Oscar Wilde quote

Knowledge brings understanding; understanding reduces fear and anxiety.  Understand the value of the information that is important to your life; use that understanding to make your own decisions.  Do not let others make important decisions for you!

To gain understanding, to reduce fear use these guidelines

Seek information, not affirmation: are you looking just to find people who agree with you?  Be honest with yourself. If you are, then you are not looking for information.

Be open to information that may make you uncomfortable, ask questions, stretch the boundaries of your opinions; it’s not easy, it never was.  But, it is harder today with the thought bubbles/thought prisons of algorithm-driven social media.

Social media can surround you with people who share many of your opinions.  That may seem comforting, but true understanding of an issue or topic (and reducing the fear and anxiety) may require breaking that bubble and going outside your comfort zone.

Source + motivation + how you want to use a piece of information = Value:  if you can, go to the original source of the information (the peer-reviewed study, the video, the news broadcast, the interview, the book, the article, etc.).  Finding it/getting to it may not be easy.  Don’t just rely on someone’s else’s opinion or analysis; go to the original source and see what was actually said or done.

And then, think about why that information was produced and shown in that particular way (the choice of words, the images, the layout) … usually, it is done in a very planned way in an attempt to create an emotional reaction within you (the reader or viewer).  What is that motivation?  Do “they” want you to buy something, watch something, vote in a particular way, send them a donation, believe in a particular ideology … what is “their” goal?

Then, how do you want to use the information? Is it appropriate to use for your purpose? Is the information legitimate and valid? Does it actually help answer your question?

Through all of this (these three parts), you will discover the value of the information to you; the value may be very different for another person.

Dig deeper–do not rely on just one source of information:  if the information is important to you, do not rely on just one source.  Look for other analyses, other opinion, other research–look for evidence that supports and contradicts a finding, an analysis, an assertion.  Seek opinions other than your own or your in-group. “The” answer often lies somewhere in the middle.

Why should you do this? Because of situations like this

See a list of questions to help you think about the value of information important to your life.

Questions? Please let me know (engelk@grinnell.edu).

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