You know those guys who put papers in the hands of politicians, the sharply dressed young people who walk-and-talk toward the studio next to news anchors, and sit next to announcers at baseball games? Those are the fact-checkers, and this world could use a few more of them. Actually, so could my life.
As a recent transplant to a new part of my country I have been the recipient of *a lot* of well-intentioned advice delivered with authority. I’m appreciative that so many of my new community members are interested in helping me to have a positive initiation to their part of the world! I’m also wary. Obviously recommendations are subjective, and can’t be confused with fact. Except that they are. Routinely.
Personal opinions aren’t the only individual perspectives masquerading around as fact. World events happen, people report on them. The facts don’t change, and yet the stories do. Doctors prepare and present information with a desire to help, and are constrained by outside expectations on what exactly that means. Your mind convinces you that you are lazy/broke/angry/incapable, and eventually the unchecked ideas become fact.
In sinister and innocent ways, we are consistently bombarded with half-truths, facts told with a decided “spin”, and contradictions to what we have always understood to be true. As my recent experiences have reinforced, you owe it to yourself and anyone you might bump into, to become your own fact checker.
Which means yes, you must go test all the pizza. Swim in every ocean until you find the one that is actually the bluest. Try your hand at every kind of workout until you find one that actually does make you forget that you didn’t think you could like working out. Drinking the “best cup of coffee” and eat the “best donut” and see the “greatest movie”. Listen to Lavar Burton and don’t take anyone’s word for it.
While some things will forever remain a matter of taste, like pizza and impressionism, every field has an authority, and we were created with minds capable of incredible deduction. I challenge you to remember all those critical thinking classes in college and hone your little mental filter on the daily. Next time you read an article about a current event, read a second one from a different source. Consider who is advertising in the magazine you’re reading and what impact that may have on the articles contained inside. When you catch yourself thinking things about yourself that you’d slap your best friend for thinking about herself, try to remember what’s been going on for you recently. Are you really a horrible person who hates everyone, or are you just hangry?
The world has some awful, horrible atrocities happening in it right now. Our societies have irreparable scars and greed is literally tearing our planet apart. Those are facts and we should all seek to be informed and do our part in addressing these things. But let’s make sure we’re worrying about the right things. Real things. Not the things that someone told us to worry about, or guilted us into caring about. Not the things that an ad agency wants us to focus on instead of the truth. The real things, as they are. The search for truth is dark and scary, but along the way is incredible, uplifting, beauty.