Why Do We Think What We Think?

Groupthink makes me cranky.

The most important thing we can teach our children is to think for themselves. You might argue that teaching them to respect all other beings is a tad bit more important. I grant you, I thought of that as well. But I believe that if they can think for themselves, respect for all beings will happen automatically — unless they’re a sociopath, in which case all other ideologies get thrown out the window anyway.

Buzzwords drive me nuts. Buzzthink makes my brain itchy. Echo chambers bore me to tears.

As soon as I start to hear the echoes, I’m gone.

Social media has made it much easier for folks to latch onto an idea that some famous person issues forth. The more popular that person (account) is, the more people tend to turn off their brains. It’s so easy to read something quickly and hit that boost, upvote, or share button. After all, the person (account) is well-liked, so there’s no reason to think too hard about what they’ve said. Besides, some of our friends (accounts) already liked it and boosted it. If I like and boost, it’s pre-sanctioned by a majority. I have buy-in from the people in my circle, who I imagine must be nodding their heads in approval of my action. I am good. I am correct.

The internet hasn’t turned us into lazy thinkers — that’s been going on for centuries. But it has made the bandwagons much easier to board.

We all get swept up into a cause, fandom, or political position at one time or another. We’re human. It’s the ability to check ourselves now and then, to question our motives, that makes us true individuals.

Mobs happen when too many people stop checking themselves. It’s part fear and part laziness. No one wants to go against the herd for fear of reprisal or retribution. Plus, it’s so easy to just get on board. Who has the energy to fight all the time? There’s groceries to buy, kids to feed, jobs to work, school to finish.

But we owe it to ourselves (and the world) to stop every now and then — despite the business of daily life — and question ourselves. Why do we think Republicans are bad and Democrats are good (or vice versa)? Why do we think a universal basic income is good idea? Why is capitalism evil? Why was Game of Thrones a good show? Why should transgender folks compete in sports along with “normal” people? Why shouldn’t they?

We may come up with the same answers or beliefs we started with. Maybe there will be more questions. Either way, instituting a system of checks and balances on what we think and believe is a good idea. That way, we know that we think what we think because we thunk it ourselves.

Photo by Belinda Fewings on Unsplash

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