Thinking is Not Enough to Save Us from the Trolls

Add this to your list of must-have skills to navigate the online world: Critical ignoring. 

Psychologists, scientists and educators have determined that critical thinking skills aren’t enough to save us from being overwhelmed by the vast amount of garbage online. Rather than take the time to evaluate, check and verify everything we read, we need to quickly recognize rabbit holes and disinformation and move on quickly. I had a name for this when I was a journalist.

I called it a BS detector. It was built on:

  1. Intuition
  2. A sharp ear
  3. Life experience
  4. Industry knowledge
  5. A nose for things that didn’t smell right

Sound familiar? We all have varying degrees of these skills. Unfortunately, I couldn’t just ignore what smelled fishy. I still had to muck through the mud to verify or disprove the smell. Usually, it wasn’t outright misinformation but a nuance, deliberate omission or exaggeration that painted the company in a more favorable light.

Unfortunately, a lot of the internet smells fishy these days

We need to retrain our BS detectors to sniff out the prevalent one-sided stories, half-truths, opinions and outright misinformation. In many cases, we should be ignoring more stuff than we grace with our time and attention. While aggravating, I’m not sure developing critical ignoring and a more powerful BS detector are bad things.

Both make us build discernment. Both make us think, er, critically. We emerge as more careful, intentional and smarter consumers.

And we save our time and attention for more fulfilling, unplugged pursuits and quests.

3 Resources for You: Deep Dive on Critical Ignoring

Books, articles, tips, tools and advice to help you unplug.

2 Questions for You: Detector Checkup, BS Hiding in Plain Sight

Reflections, questions and ideas to consider to break the digital impasse.

1st Q: What’s the status of your BS detector? Need an upgrade? Fresh batteries? Turn the volume up?

2nd Q: How much time do you think you could save daily if you started immediately ignoring the BS in your inbox, searches and social media feeds?

Reflection Feedback

From Loree: (on illegal walking)
Working in a coffee house right now, and you’ve reminded me that airplane mode can help me break the habit of compulsively checking my email. Thank you!

I also read the article on Holloways, and was wowed by the history. Thanks for a fun edition!

From Rosemary: (on digital rabbit holes)

I’ve only read “The Old Ways”, but I love the descriptions of the sea and sailing in Robert Macfarlane’s book.  What a good idea – I can now read some of his other books!

From Darien: (on digital rabbit holes)

Going through email were scores of articles on Medium that I thought were interesting but didn’t have time to read when the aggregate notifications came in. The embedded links in many articles led to wonderful other articles and discussions about a diverse number of interesting topics.

1 Action for You: Test Your Critical Ignoring Competence

One small step to start the change.

How much junk did you ignore this week? How much more could you ignore if you were ruthless about protecting your time and attention?

Window on the World

Amazingly, studies show that looking at photos of Nature calms your mind, reduces stress and increases concentration. I’m happy to share my view with you!

The art of being wise is the art of knowing what to ignore.” ~ William James, American philosopher