In the general population today, the majority of humans have lost the ability to distinguish opinion from facts. This was the conclusion of a Stanford Graduate School of Education that performed studies of nearly 8,000 students between the ages of 11 and 21 to assess a rudimentary, basic ability to tell the difference between opinion and facts. In other words, the study was not even designed to test a complex ability to distinguish between more deceptive opinions presented under the guise of a “news story” by mainstream media, but simply tested a basic, fundamental level of adults to distinguish between opinions and facts. And they discovered that the overwhelming majority of people at all ages in their study failed miserably in the successful achievement of this simple task.
It was curious that the researchers stated, in their conclusions, of the inability of students to discern fact from opinion at basic levels, that despite their digital media savvy, they were unable to do so. On the contrary, I believe that the more embedded a person is in the digital world, the more susceptible he or she is to being duped into accepting an opinion as a fact despite an absence of any evidence to validate the opinion as a fact. Why?
Simply consider the fact that young adults that grew up in the smartphone/social media age have sourced all their news from social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram and internet search engines like Google. Thus, since they were brought into the beehive since birth to adopt a hive like mentality, they were conditioned to believe everything presented to them as truth without question, even though Facebook has been caught multiple times altering newsfeeds of its users to create beliefs deliberately designed to dumb down the intellect of its users. For example, just reference this article that discussed a critical change in the Facebook newsfeed algorithm that would constantly bombard the user with stories about beliefs they already embraced. In other words, Facebook executives deliberately ensured through manipulating its newsfeeds algorithm models, that users would constantly dwell in an echo chamber and rarely be subjected to any dissenting views from the ones they already held, whether these views were right or wrong.
If you watch the below video, I discuss the details and results of the above reference Stanford study more in depth, then you will learn how the world of social media has created a generation of attention deficit disorder children that want their news fed to them in pictures and in soundbites and have decreased their ability to focus on the details of a story that may take ten or fifteen minutes to read. In addition, I lay much of the blame for the near absence of critical thinking ability in society at large at the feet of the architects of the global academic system. Though the mission of the global academic system should be to educate its students, in reality, the most important aspect of education – critical thinking – has systemically been stripped from academic classrooms over the course of the prior century.