It’s needless to say that social media plays a crucial role in our life today. We are so used to checking our Facebook feed and our friends’ updates on Instagram that we can’t imagine ourselves without these things.
Still, the need to stay constantly connected and share our news with the world isn’t simply a part of our lives. It’s also changed the way we think, making us fall victim to different illusions and cognitive distortions.
I’d like to focus on one of those–the illusory need to have an opinion about everything.
Let me demonstrate this illusion in action
Let me ask you a few questions:
- What’s your opinion on the Fermi paradox?
- Why didn’t the Germans destroy British troops at Dunkirk during WWII?
- Why did communism fail?
Unless you are extremely erudite, you will most likely answer “I don’t know” to some or all of these questions.
You see? You are not ashamed to admit that you don’t know something. And it’s not a shame at all–we can’t know everything. After all, we are here to learn and evolve.
Sadly, we often neglect this simply truth and fall into the illusion that we need to have an opinion when it comes to trending topics.
Now, let me ask you a few more questions:
- What were the reasons the war in Ukraine started?
- What’s your opinion about the COVID-19 vaccines?
- Why are the energy prices rising?
Here, you will most likely have an answer to give to each of these questions.
But now ask yourself, how much do you actually know about these topics? Unless you have a vast knowledge of politics, economics, or immunology, you probably know about these things on a very superficial level.
Yet, you are certain about what your opinion is.
So, why were your answers so different? You said “I don’t know” to the first set of questions, and yet, you answered the second sets of questions with a high degree of certainty.
What’s the difference?
The illusion of having an opinion about everything
This is where we come to the essence of the illusion I’m talking about. A constant connection to social media and the Internet fools us into believing that we need to have an opinion about everything. Moreover, that our opinions matter.
You write a post and your Facebook friends react to it. You upload a selfie with a political message on your Instagram and people comment. It feels like what you say is important.
In reality, it’s not true.
Your opinion matters as long as you talk about your life and the things you know about. If you just follow the hype but have a superficial knowledge of the subject, your opinion doesn’t matter because it brings no value. If you haven’t studied and analyzed the problem in depth, you just repeat what you heard from others, read online, or saw on TV.
However, it’s understandable why most people think that their opinion matters and expressing it is important. This is what everyone does. This topic is everywhere on the news and the Internet, so you gotta contribute and say something too, right?
It’s nothing but an illusion.
It may be difficult to accept this truth because in our age of constant connection, it feels weird to stay away from the hype and not say anything. Social media is here so that we express ourselves, right?
In reality, you don’t need to have an opinion about everything. It’s okay to stay away from trending topics and not have any opinion at all. It’s okay to not say anything.
You don’t have to take sides and form points of view about the subjects you know nothing about, especially if they lie outside of your area of interest. It’s not a shame to say “I don’t know” or “I’m not sure” when someone asks you about a trending political or social issue.
After all, silence is golden. Sometimes it’s indeed better to just stay quiet.
So, the next time you are about to start an argument on a “hot” topic or share a political post on Facebook, ask yourself,
- How well do I know the subject?
- Have I studied the problem from different sides?
- Is my opinion actually mine or am I just repeating something I’ve heard from others or on TV?
Maybe these questions will help you see the truth. The need to have an opinion about everything is an illusion.
At the same time, if you are truly interested in a trending problem and want to understand it better, then make sure to study it from all perspectives.
Read, watch, learn. Then analyze the information you consumed. Only then you can say that you came up with your own–not someone else’s–conclusions.
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