I recently came across someone’s social media post alleging that an article on a mainstream media outlet fabricated details about the person’s story. However, which story it was and what it was about is not important.

But what I think is important is how we discern between truths and stories.

Do we take everything we read/watch/listen for granted that the writer/producer/speaker has done their due diligence to check for 100% accuracy in their stories? Or do we take everything with a pinch of salt, knowing that they may not be the absolute truth?

In this era when a lot of things are fake news, how do we know what’s real? Or what’s fake?

Will you believe everything that you read, watch and listen to?

Now, consider this: can any human being, a mere finite mortal, know everything there is to know about a topic?

Just take research about the health impacts of coffee for instance. Every few years, it seems that research will swing the other way. Sometimes, they tell you that coffee is healthy. Other times, they tell you that it’s not.

It’s just not possible to write about absolute truths. Even in research, we are taught to use cautious language. Because information changes all the time. And our understanding of various disciplines changes all the time.

Furthermore, within the limitations of an article, a short video, or a speech, even pure facts can be put together in such a way to make you believe in what the author wants you to believe. What’s more, you don’t even have to outright lie to mislead someone. You just have to merely omit some facts or information.

Seeking second opinions

If you would not hesitate to seek a second opinion about a health issue, why would you not seek a second opinion in terms of what you read? Aren’t doctors experts? So if a doctor is an expert, why do you need a second opinion?

The problem is, we have become flooded with information from all over the place. And that tempts us to just take whatever we happen to read at face value. Even articles from mainstream media.

And then others swing completely the other way, ignoring mainstream media and only getting their sources of information from alternative media. That creates another set of problems. How do you know the alternative media that you read do not have their own hidden agendas?

There are always two sides to the same coin (or 3, if you consider the edge). With every story we read, we need to consider alternative angles and perspectives. We need to seek out as much information as we can. Then we can determine for ourselves what we want to believe.

Every time you are tempted to believe what someone else wrote or produced (including this article), remember what Steve Jobs said: “Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you”. That is why we need to think for ourselves. And to know what absolute truths we believe in that we can use as a lens to interpret the world.

What absolute truths do you hang on to that help you navigate the world?

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