Thoughts on the growing problem of opinions

Here’s a thought I had:

I was talking to someone recently who said, “just google it”.  They were more or less saying that “whatever google says is right”.  To me, this shows a growing problem nowadays.  Basically, with the internet, social media, and such, a number of problems are being created such as:

  • An overabundance and prevalence of opinions.   They can range from asinine to insightful.  They can be something like a quick casual statement or remark, with no thought, to something well thought out.  Its often hard to tell the nature of opinions.  But the quantity of opinions is almost unreal.  To say that they are a “dime a dozen” is an understatement.
  • Opinions-taken-as-fact.  Many people tend to believe opinions and take them as if they were gospel truth.  In other words, with the prevalence of opinions people are increasingly taking opinions as if they are automatically true, completely believing it without thought or consideration.  It as if they are assuming “if its on the internet or social media then its true”.  I’m often amazed at how many people think this way.

Personally, I think this is causing a problem, perhaps bordering on a crisis.

EFFECTS

In many ways, the prevalence of opinions, and the fact that they are being believed, is creating a great confusion. This is often to the point that it causes a number of situations such as:

  • A person can’t tell whats what anymore
  • A person can’t tell what to believe in
  • It creates a group of people that “jump on everything” (that is, they believe everything)
  • A mentality of blindly following

In many ways, the prevalence of opinions is making people “dumber” and “robot-like”. 

In addition, its depriving people of discovering things for themselves. With the internet and social media, opinions are coming out of the woodwork.  And most of these opinions are prefabricated points of view that someone else created.  A person does not have to work for it . . . its “prepackaged”.  All you got to do is “google it” and any question is answered.  I’m not the only person who has noticed that this tends to make “stupid people who can’t figure things out for themselves”.

Overall, it seems to me that opinions tends to cause things like:

  • A tendency to be misled  as most opinions don’t work for everyone
  • A tendency to be deceived
  • A tendency to be misinformed
  • A tendency to gossip and hype 
  • A tendency to social hysteria and mania
  • A tendency to believe blindly
  • A tendency of conformism
  • A tendency to confusion as a result of the amount of opinions and their often contradictory nature
  • A tendency to not discover things on ones own

THE PROBLEM OF “TRUE-BUT-NOT-TRUE”

I am not saying that opinions, statements, etc. are wrong.  The problem with opinions is that they are generally “true-but-not-true”.  Generally, opinions reflect things like:

  • The person saying it (their motive, their state of mind, their background, etc.)
  • The situation that causes it
  • The environmental conditions they are in

Because of this, opinions are very specific and do not reflect a general all-encompassing explanation.  As a result, opinions are not scientific fact nor is it a statement from god and shouldn’t be looked at that way.  One could say that, with opinions, things are only true under certain conditions . . . and its not true under other conditions.   This quality makes it very hard for people to relate to.  The fact is that many people have a hard time with the “true-but-not-true” quality of opinions.  People naturally want true or false, black and white, and such so that things are clear and precise.  But that is not the nature of opinions.

Generally, the question of “truth” in opinions is more a matter of if you “relate” with what it says.  But we must remember that this is true to them . . . its not a scientific fact nor is it gospel.  I call this “truth by relating”.   Some of the ways that a person “relates” with opinion include:

  • A similar background
  • A similar personality
  • A similar situation
  • A similar motive or need
  • A coincidence in interpretation

Once someones finds a quality of “relating” it becomes “true”, at least to them.

But, I should also point out, that many people believe opinions because they believe blindly.  That is to say, they believe because of things like these:

  • Its just stated
  • Other people believe it
  • They are conforming

This makes them believe things blindly, mindlessly, and absent mindedly.  There is generally no thought or consideration about it.  With some people you could tell them to go jump off a cliff and they probably would.

Interestingly, many people find security in blindly believing. Its like a “warm blanket” they cuttle up to.  Basically, by following the “powers-that-be” they find security in it.  What it says, preaches, or professes does not matter  . . . its the security of believing what everyone believes that matters.

BECOMING A “WORLD OF OPINIONS” AND THE PROBLEM OF AUTHORITY

It seems, to me, that the great bulk of everything on the internet and social media is opinion.  For some things this is obvious, such as social statements, political views, etc.  For other things, this is not so obvious, such as things like medicine, science, history, etc.  We must remember that most things taught at any school is a form of opinion, even if it professes to be “science” or based on fact or investigation. 

In many ways, we are becoming a “world of opinions”.  Opinion is replacing a belief system, tradition, culture, and so on.  This is significant as my observation is that people with a firm base of authority, such as a belief system, tradition, and culture, tend to not fall to opinion as easily. These systems had many qualities not seen with opinions, such as:

  • They are based on generations of experience
  • They are based in a “real world” interaction with the world
  • They are based in a “real world” interpretation of the world
  • They are based in maintaining a social unity

What this shows is that the prevalence of opinions reflect a number of conditions such as:

  • A breakdown of society
  • A growing alienation
  • A disconnectedness with life

In some ways, you could say that “life is losing its authority to the conditions of civilization”.  In other words, we are no longer “living in the world”.  Instead, we are “living in the artificial creations of humanity . . . civilization”.  Life is no longer authority but civilization and what it creates.  This shows that the prevalence of opinion is showing a dilemma of authority and what authority is.  The “authority” of opinion is very vague, haphazard, varies with each person, and is often ungrounded.  As a result, a “world of opinion” is like balancing a battleship on the end of a pin.  In other words, opinion-as-authority is not a stable form of authority and is characterized by instability.

PREDISPOSITIONS TO OPINION

People, nowadays, are predisposed to believe opinion.  In general, the orientation is that everyone is taught to believe everything.  This is because of things like:

  • The prevalence of various forms of media, such as news and the social media which causes a tendency to “blindly believe”
  • Over-education . . . spending too much time in school learning stuff other people created and, of course, you got to repeat it on a test so you pass

The absence of some things predispose people as well, such as:

  • The lack of authority
  • The lack of a belief system

These create a condition where people tend to “believe everything”.

THE DEVALUATION OF KNOWLEDGE AND “TRUTH”

It seems, to me, that the prevalence of opinions has actually undermined knowledge and “truth”.  It has done this a number of ways such as:

  • The sheer quantity of opinions
  • How many opinions contradict each other
  • How many opinions are not reconciling (that is ,there is no agreement between them)
  • The lack of authority in opinions
  • Their illusionary quality (that is, they seem “true”)

From where I stand, it seems that opinions has turned “knowledge” and “truth” into nothing but a bunch of statements and words.  Not only that, nowadays, there are trillions of these statements and words to be found on the internet . . . take your pick!

When I was a kid I remember knowledge and “truth” had great meaning and value and relevance and authority.  Opinions has devalued and undermined this.

LEARNING TO BE CAUTIOUS WITH OPINIONS

I’ve often remarked that they almost need to have classes to teach people to not believe everything nowadays.  In short, opinion is so prevalent and misleading that we need to learn to be cautious with opinion . . . that’s practically everything we hear, read, learn, or are taught!  

There seem to be several things that make opinions difficult, such as:

  • The condition of “true-but-not-true”.  Its hard to tell if its true or not.
  • The prevalence and frequency of opinion.  We are literally bombarded by opinions.

Some things I find helpful include:

  • Don’t assume an opinion or statement is true.  This often requires a skepticism, disbelief, or questioning of things.
  • Learn a respect of opinions.  Appreciate that peoples opinions have meaning to them, even though they may have no meaning to you.
  • Reflect on opinions and statements. This means you need to “ponder things”.
  • Know ones self and what is important to ones self. Because of “true-by-relating” (see above) a person needs to know what one relates to and what is relevant to you. In short, a person must develop ones of “personal belief system” and develop a “personal authority” to hold ones self implanted, steady, and firm.
  • Perpetually inquire about ones own opinions about things . . . let the opinions you believe originate from within, not from others.  Use the opinions of others as a guide and helpmate.  Don’t rely on them as “source material”.
  • Acknowledge if one accepts an opinion or statement is true, not true, that one doesn’t know, or that one doesn’t care.  It seems that we often need to “refute” many opinions or statements in our minds.  If we “let it pass by” we tend to be easily swayed by it later.
  • Be aware that one doesn’t have to believe everything.  That is to say, I can disagree or not believe in things and its OK.

In many ways, the prevalence and problems created by opinions put greater weight on the individual person.  I have said, many times, that we have to always be on guard, nowadays, and be careful about everything we hear, see, read, and understand and to not immediately assume its true or relevant.  

I have been aware of the problem of opinion for years.  This is why I call this blog “passing thoughts” and say things like “for what its worth” and “here’s a thought I had” or “it seems to me” or “that’s how it appears to me” and tried to emphasize that I am only describing how things appear to me and such (see “About Mike and his blog”).  I have never professed to be “true” and “correct” and never stated that I am speaking of what I call “ultimate knowledge” (that my knowledge is the ultimate explanation).  I am very much aware that the statements in this blog reflect me, my point of view, my situation, and are statements of how things appear to me at the time.  As to whether anyone can find use in them or not I have no idea.


Copyright by Mike Michelsen

This entry was posted in Advice???, Education and learning, Mass communication: media, social media, and the news, Mass hysteria, mass society, and the mob, Science and technology and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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