In this current political climate, opinions are flying. Everyone seems to have opinions. I have mine, and chances are my opinions are different than yours. And that is fine. I am not talking about being right or wrong. But the truth is, simply having an opinion isn’t enough. It is now vital to ensure you are properly informed because, more than ever, the world needs to be full of people with informed opinions. While this may seem like common sense. Unfortunately, it is not.
Having an informed opinion is especially significant when talking about topics that are important. Opinions about health care, education or foreign policy, for example, require nuanced understandings of complex and in flux problems. Many issues are extremely complicated and multifaceted, which can make being properly informed difficult. A good place to start your education on complex issues is the media.
Yes, the media has been in a dubious state recently, but it is still a good medium through which different perspectives can be gathered on the same issue. Try listening to media sources you don’t normally like. Try hearing the other side’s ideas. While information is everywhere, some of it is not credible. Learning to critically think about information is key. Critical thinking is the ability to think clearly and see rational relationships, not simply gathering information. This type of thinking means actively looking at the information you have collected and being able to analyze it.
Look at the source to dissect information. You must be wary in this political era of the fake news. Sure, The Onion is fake news. As satire, it is meant to be. The more pernicious outlets are those that report on fake news without bothering to check their info first; articles produced by these sources are only click bait. They do nothing to accurately inform readers.
Be wary of this. If you only hear the fake news and not corrected statements, you are missing actual facts. Fake news is a real problem in the world, which makes it even more important that you truly consider where your news comes from. Make a list of sources you trust and check their version of a story against a source you aren’t so sure about.
Make sure that you are comfortable with the source of the information first, then look at the information itself. Read through the statistics, look for inconsistencies, consider the core argument and reflect on what the information means to you and to other people. It is rather easy to look for facts that support your own opinion but resist the urge. Try to remain unbiased and learn the facts about an issue before you decide where your viewpoint falls.
Having an opinion is a good thing. Voicing that opinion is, in this nation, a privilege and a right. Free speech is meant to be used, not abused, so make sure you have all the facts first and are truly educated about the topic. Check your normal news sources, maybe listen to what the other side has to say, but be sure you are informed.