Are Your Brains Falling Out?

If I learned anything in graduate school (and let’s all PRAY I learned at least something), it’s that research or journalism is best supported by a lengthy, multi-source literature review. Finding out who has researched your topic before, understanding the trends of that concept, and extrapolating theories onto where that concept is going, create an interesting roadmap to contextualize your own specific article or topic.

Now, take that idea and let’s look at in a more “real world” view.

People. Not everything you read on Facebook is real.

In this digital world, where headlines rule and content is king, the content machine churns out thousands of articles a day, all with that sound-bite headline meant to draw readers in and increase that news source’s click-thru rate. One gem recently included a headline promising to expose celebrities’ “arm-pit fat.”

Now, I’m part of that machine. I’m a marketer, a content creator and someone whose job depends on proving marketing and advertising offer ROI. But in my personal world, I find it really, really troublesome this epidemic of assuming and believing content on the Internet without personal research.

We all have our beliefs, and we all have our ways of thinking, understanding and just “being” in this world. Creating our do’s and don’ts, building our understanding of our world from our families and friends, and living within our comfort zones are all ways we create social norms and learn how to survive in this crazy world. But borrowing a term from my master’s public opinion class, I suggest we all need to have more “cross-cutting” conversations.

Now, in political communication speak “cross-cutting” is more about having conversations about differing political views. Say a Republican has a conversation about abortion with a Democrat and both walk away from the conversation learning something from the other. That’s cross-cutting. Being exposed to something different and learning from it.

In our lives, I think it’s critical to have cross-cutting conversations about everything (well except the superiority of chocolate milk over regular milk, that’s just a given). Religion. Pop culture. Politics. How to make the best gumbo. Baby raising. You name it. Understanding different points of view, seeing how other people see the world and not being afraid to hear others out, I believe, allows for a deeper formation and solidification of our own morals and values.

I heard a quote the other day: “Be open minded, but not so open minded that your brains fall out.” And I love how it alludes to the healthy idea that it’s important to learn about your world, but not be so gullible or scared that you lose yourself. For me, this is an ongoing process. I have very solid and stable beliefs in my faith, in God and how I want to operate in my social paradigm, but I’m also open to hearing about how others live, what others think about the issues I believe strongly in, and how others live in their own paradigms. It helps give me perspective, a way to speak to my beliefs, and I often walk away learning something new.

So, hopefully the next time you see that article on Facebook claiming something absurd, whether it be politically, religiously or pop culturally, take a moment to research the topic, learn from it and THEN get on your soap box to state your opinion. Then, the world (edit: Facebook) will be a much smarter place.