Sometimes, I think we (living in these times) are the luckiest bunch of people since the history of mankind began. At other times, I am not so sure and long for the simpler times when the internet did not exist. Times when there weren’t so many opinions flying around cyberspace; when things were subtler and saner. It’s a ruckus these days; a big, fat whirlwind featuring compulsive showoffs, faux intellectuals, cantankerous characters, and relentless rabble-rousers jostling for prominence on and offline. And as exciting as it is, it gets overwhelming all too often.
However, I find that the greater challenge is the ability to discern in an epoch where everyone can air their thoughts in the public space. Peer pressure hasn’t been more real than it is in these times. Information overload from divergent sources comprising credible and questionable news platforms and blogs are a fraction of what we have to contend with. There are social media celebrities whose band of followers hang on to their every word and are ever ready to go to battle with non-fans of their idol.
It’s easy to get lost in the sea of strong takes that wash the virtual landscape. If one isn’t careful, they’d find themselves kowtowing to every semblance of a sensible opinion crafted in well-worded grammar. And before long, their identity is indecipherable. One minute they are in the comments section of a popular influencer, affirming their viewpoint on a trending topic, the next minute, they are expressing doubt about the veracity of the opinion they just endorsed. And soon enough, it’s clear that this individual is inauthentic. Their intrinsic self eroded by the potpourri of personalities they have adopted.
Without a doubt, an independent mind is a non-negotiable virtue for an adult in today’s world. The ability to sieve through the avalanche of information in form of news, gossip, opinions, and social media debates on the path to one’s own conclusion is critical. It’s the only way to be original in thought and voice.
And so while you are reading your favourite influencers take on a subject matter or the analysis of a recent government policy by a news platform, it’s important to not internalise what you have read until you come to your own conviction. You must be able to extract value—if any—while trashing the chaff coated in objective commentary.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have to sieve.
The virtual space is dangerous for the simple-minded. Soon enough, they find that they are notorious for being mere echoers of popular opinions and regurgitators of unfiltered information.
Neglect to do due diligence when the information received borders on investment, relationships, religion, or ethos could cause huge material loss or interpersonal relationship damage. The fear of missing out and the bandwagon effect are the reason Ponzi schemes continue to thrive in this part of the world.
Somehow, we are inclined to do what we see the next person doing rather than stop to weigh our own thoughts and arrive at a conclusion that is premised on personal conviction or seek advice from those who know better.
A habit of sieving will help to determine who’s real and who’s not; who’s trouble and who should be an ally; what’s needful and what should be discarded.
Filtering is how you choose what to be exposed to and what you should guard your heart against.
Again, this is where simpletons miss it.
Not everything is “catching cruise.” The discerning know they should stay away from strife and rancour especially when it involves other persons; they resist the temptation to take sides when fights that have nothing to do with them break out and are masters at minding their business.
By all means, listen…pay attention. But never fail to sieve.