Protect your psyche from bullshit.
Most of us don’t think of themselves as easily manipulated, citing things like skepticism, logic and rationality. Anyone who spends any time on social media has been manipulated whether they know it or not, probably at least several times a day. The easiest ways to not be influenced by the social media bullshit bombardment of is to just assume everything is probably a little bullshit and go about your life.
Bullshit artists makes it their business to push your buttons, shape your worldview, attitudes, opinions and beliefs. These psyche predators use what they call psychographics (psychological demographics) to target vulnerable people with bullshit (ads, clickbait and propaganda) and corrupt their worldview with misinformation.
Brexit and the Trump ’16 campaign both hired Cambridge Analytica which used targeted laser focused bullshit advertising and propaganda (lock her up, isis, pizzagate) on “purple” or “influenceable voters” and pulled off what most thought was impossible.
You do not have to be a passive consumer lulled into regurgitating any bullshit you hear, make the choice to assume everything you read on social media has a high probability of being bullshit.
Companies are not evil empires out to dominate your soul(yet at least) but they know how to push your buttons to steer your opinions, interests and wallet in their direction. That isn’t unique to the internet, there’s always been advertising and propaganda, but the rate and precision of information is faster than at any point in human history by a humongous margin.
What does independent verification mean? Don’t blindly parrot facts and opinions without giving it a second thought and stop assuming every meme is fact. It doesn’t mean assuming everything is wrong, it’s just assuming you don’t know whether or not something is true — without any sort of “judgment” simply not blindly accepting everything you read.
Being a skeptic that frowns on every idea and assumes everyone is wrong isn’t just counterproductive, it’s a sure formula for a bitter life. There’s a big difference between assuming everything is wrong and not assuming everything is true. When wading in the digital stream, it’s best not to drink every drop of water you see.
There are certain things on the internet that you should not be skeptical of like kindness and positivity. Whether it’s genuine or not, with or without ulterior motives there’s no real benefit in not just taking a cue to put a smile on your face and feel good.
What everyone absolutely should be self aware about themselves is what they take in, what they accept as fact and what they share to others. The way the mind works is information won’t drastically warp your perspective but enough of the wrong kinds of information over time will eventually change your thinking patterns more than you’re likely to realize.
With bad actors out on the internet actively seeking to manipulate your worldview. Cambridge Analytica, advertisers, social media platforms, news aggregators and all other analytics based targeted ads make it their job to influence you.
What you have to remember about advertisements is the context that they are spending money to get you to buy/think a certain way because they’re by definition inferior BECAUSE they have to advertise in the first place. If you’d never had a coca-cola in your life and somebody framed it to you as “Hey you want some brown sugary carbonated chemical fizzy water?” it might not have the same impact as a group of attractive twenty somethings hanging out at the roller rink drinking frosty glass bottles with big smiles on their faces.
The same is true for the equally inherently inferior product — bullshit. Bullshit is the best descriptor as it is not loaded with any loaded / charged terms like “fake news” “fascist” “mainstream media” or “corporate” — which are also on many degrees bullshit descriptors that narrowly try to fit too many different ideas under a broad umbrella. Bullshit is universal, bullshit is unambiguous without pushing ideology.
You don’t have to live under a rock, you can be on social media and not be powerless to influence. You don’t even have to think about it, the only thing you have to do is not think about it. It’s impossible to tell if something is “true” which is why science only really confirms what things are not. In fields like politics and journalism — opinions and facts are so easily interchanged it’s not even worth giving them a second thought.
One of the best ways to detect bullshit isn’t with your eyes, it’s hard to the difference between bullshit and clay if you’re looking at two samples up close. The best detection of bullshit is the bigger picture or the smell.
When companies present you information that aligns with their agenda (IE: anything political, religious, ideological) or serves as publicity for their brand or product (advertisers, companies, “influencers”) the scent of bullshit follows. That doesn’t automatically mean its bullshit just that it’s more likely to be bullshit, that’s where independent verification comes in.
So you may be wondering, alright I can smell bullshit but it’s still bombarding my senses — doesn’t that mean I’m still influenceable? Yep. The best way to protect from bullshit online is to use the tools at your disposal, block, unfollow, mute anything that smells like bullshit — that’s bumming you out, that doesn’t seem important even if you enjoy it — cut and run and think of them like a pack of cigarettes addictive, pleasurable but horrible for you.
If you care enough to talk about it, read the source. Don’t just assume the general consensus is true. Look at the food pyramid or the american diabetes association: how well do you think their advice is working for a country that’s getting fatter, sicker and more diabetic by the year?
Willpower is not something that most people can use effectively without building it up first. So if you want to protect your psyche from bullshit, expect that you’re gonna be faced with it a whole bunch and you might not always be able to sniff it out. The practice of sniffing, of questioning, of thinking critically is a skill and one of the strongest sources of bullshit is yourself. You’re most likely not a doctor, political analyst, not a scientist, you’re not a nutritionist, you’re not an expert so knock off that bullshit if you find yourself repeating something you read like you are one.
You know who you should listen to? People who follow their own advice, not those with opinions that want you to buy into their latest product or idea.
With all this said, it’s very easy to become negative when faced with too much bullshit. That’s why the act of smelling bullshit and walking away mentally is far more effective than labeling it bullshit, which is a form of bullshit in itself unless you actually do the independent verification and then apply the bullshit filter to your own opinions: do I know what I’m talking about?, did I do the research?
So does that mean you should constantly research everything you see? Of course not, that’d be complete bullshit. Only if you care enough about something to take it to heart or repeat it to others are worth investigating because most bullshit doesn’t matter — sniff it, ignore it and move on with your life.