Before taking Advanced Theories of Communication (CMN3109) I knew that being a critical thinker was an important skill to have for both university and the workplace. After taking this class I realized that being a critical thinker is not only an important skill but an essential skill for every aspect of my life. Critical thinking is defined as “disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence.” Critical thinking allows you to become more flexible in problem solving, be a better listener and collaborator, communicate more effectively with others, think more open-mindedly, promotes creativity, and allows you to have a better appreciation of differing world-views.
With the advancement of technology, we are always being faced with unexplored areas. Specifically, the rise of social media has made it increasingly more difficult to distinguish the real from the fake because of the mass amount of information that is being released by the second. We live in a society of instant gratification and everyone wanting answers right away. As such, fact checking is not a priority for many.
Society itself has become more reliant, now more than ever, on social media for information, but it is our responsibility to fix this. In today’s media environment, it is very easy to manipulate information and have people believe it. For example, with the recent conflict in Syria many newspapers around the world have Photoshopped images of war in order to influence public opinion. The media is creating the necessity to fact-check yourself as news is spun to support a certain narrative. We must not fall victim to inaccurate media portrayal; instead we must learn to rigorously analyze sources while also exposing ourselves to an abundance of diverse opinions.
By exploring different sources and opinions we open ourselves up to a greater understanding of the world around us. Whenever reading anything, whether it is online or not, it is vital to not blindly trust every piece of information that is put in front of you. Even though this class was focused on learning and interacting using social media (specifically Twitter), when forming an opinion it is vital to look beyond just social media for information. Social media is curated for you and won’t show you the bigger picture. By not automatically trusting every single source this allows you to turn into a pragmatic critic.
Becoming a pragmatic critic occurs when individuals compare what the source is saying to what the source is actually doing. As well, it is important to never make quick judgments or conclusions based off the findings of a single source. It is vital to take your time and further investigate to see if the source is being transparent, as well as if multiple other sources are reporting the same findings. Looking into a variety of perspectives and sources does not diminish understanding by any means but can only offer a better understanding on any topic. This is the process to develop your own “intelligence agency” to become an autonomous thinker.
By becoming an autonomous thinker, we are getting outside of the cognitive bubble. This term refers to being exposed to what you like, or what excites your engagement. Even though it’s great to be heavily informed on topics that interest you, in order to avoid the cognitive bubble and become a more well-rounded individual, one must react to diverse web pages and topics to be exposed to real diversity. By getting out of your comfort zone and learning more regarding different topics, everyone can contribute more to the infosphere.
While the ease of access of information allows me to find information quicker and easier, I should not take this for granted because there is no real end to the pursuit of knowledge. Even though we can find information regarding any topic we want, we must realize that we can’t know it all but we should strive to know as much as we can. While finding any information, fact checking is an essential aspect of gathering information. I can’t believe everything I read though, especially online; it is of vital importance for me to always take the time to think critically and try to find out the accuracy behind whatever it is that I am reading. I should always remember to do so in order to know if the information I’m providing to a client or a boss is accurate.
All and all, this course truly taught me that there is no real end to the pursuit of knowledge. In the ever-changing field of communication, it is extremely important to be prepared for the changes in communication methods and the ways individuals and organizations use it. I now know that no matter what job I get after university, whether it is in the public or private sector, I need to stay up to date on top of current trends in order to be a specialist in that field. To be the best version of myself I must always look for opportunities to expand my horizon of knowledge in whatever way that I can. I have to strive to learn continuously about whatever field I am in or I am passionate about to become an expert. With all the information online there is no excuse to not always be on the hunt for more information and to not stay up to date with the conversation of experts all around the world.
Alsop, R., (2014, July 17). Instant Gratification & Its Dark Side. Bucknell University. Retrieved from http://www.bucknell.edu/communications/bucknell-magazine/instant-gratification-and-its-dark-side.html
Critical thinking. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Retrieved from http://www.dictionary.com/browse/critical-thinking
Global Research., (2015, April 29). Media Manipulation, War Propaganda: NBC’s Fake Syrian Kidnapping Story. 21st Century Wire. Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/media-manipulation-war-propaganda-nbcs-fake-syrian-kidnapping-story/5445788