How to form an opinion in today’s world?
When an issue comes up, news spreads, and people express their views regarding that issue, but what should be the first response? There are two types of people and they have two different types of responses. The first is what I call “The Researchers” where the response begins with searching for more information from verified sources about the issue. The second type is “The Powerless” here, the response is nothing but a knee-jerk reaction where opinions are not formed by verifying the authenticity of the available information, but by processing selective information which translates into instantly accepting it or rejecting it. This is often caused by some past bias a person may have. The bias need not even be too strong, for a text or video created with targeted content, to tilt a person’s opinion from one that was just on the fence to an absolute extreme. Once the initial reaction has been taken in a particular direction, it takes some courage to retract from this artificial opinion, if the need be. However, courage is found lacking in some minds, this makes them vulnerable and powerless, hence, easier to manipulate.
For any “Researcher”, the question arises, how should one form an opinion? How much information should we read and process before we finally think and form an informed opinion? When does a scholar stop their quest for more information and make a decision on what their opinion should be? Or do they never stop? Do they keep on reading? And hence are all their opinions dynamic? what keeps on changing with the amount of information that they have processed? Surely, when people write blogs and when newspapers publish the views of scholars, their opinions are very much concrete and don’t change much from thereon. Hence the answer is to be flexible and open, not to get locked on to the initial reaction or on any opinion for that matter. It is essential to have the courage to absorb fresh information, especially details that are contradictory to your opinion. Facts and news that support your opinion may strengthen your convictions but they don’t help you to gain a holistic picture of the issue. The most robust analysis is one that is able to consider counterviews and provide reasonable explanations for either adopting or discounting them. Furthermore, they are able to convince the opposition about what they see as right. Hence apart from being flexible, we should be able to keenly evaluate those views that have the potential to act as mind-changers rather than just those that simply further an existing opinion.
Debate It Out
This I feel is best done by debates, where opinions are put to the test on stage, dissected, countered and destroyed or supported, bolstered, and concretized. In their own way, debate clubs across all schools and colleges teach us how to put across pertinent points in a logical manner in order to win. However, they implicitly teach us how to formulate opinions. The best option available to us is to participate in debates ourselves; if not, we could attend our college debates or look up some of them online, because only in a debate are both sides heard at length without being interrupted or ignored. Here, there are rebuttals and explanations that help us know more about the issue. If that also appears taxing then the least we could do is discuss them with our peers, which does two things, first, it gives our opinions a chance for being checked and second, it involves more people in meaningful conversation.
It would be fair to assume that in the 20th century when information was not circulated at such a rampant speed, people may have found it easier to form opinions without doubting themselves. With regulated print dominating the media, misinformation was probably not a thing people had to worry about. Today, however, the world is different, everyone has access to unlimited, unverified information and everyone expresses an opinion from a random blogger to a veritable scholar. As the youth and future of this country, we must not blame this age of disinformation for our possibly faulty opinions, rather we must rise to the challenge and try to read views that are as diverse as possible, be flexible, and open to debates and discussions. All this is just to analyze issues with greater care. Of course, there will always be this third class called “The Blissful” of us that follow the mantra “ignorance is bliss” and think that if an issue does not affect us directly, then why care? To them, I ask one question “What will you do even if something directly affects you?” If they think that when an issue does actually affect them, they would magically come up with robust solutions and infallible opinions without having any prior opinions about anything in the past, then they have another “think” coming.