Much like the human appendix, everyone has an opinion; the difference between an appendix and an opinion is that the appendix may actually serve a function. I recently had a former student- with whom I am now friends- call me with a problem. It seems as though he had engaged another friend in a debate, opinions were given, feelings were hurt, and a friendship ruined. Of course, I advised him to read up on the issues they disagreed upon, formulate some salient points to argue, contact the friend, apologize, and try to resolve the issues which led to the dissolution of the friendship. I then told him to be prepared to get into a knockdown, drag-out fight if the friend didn’t agree to disagree, but to also to be willing to concede- especially since solid friendships are hard to come by in this modern, attention deficient world in which we live.
The vehicle by which we differentiate between facts and opinions is research. Informed opinions are fine, when rooted in solid research and facts. Uninformed opinions are as useless as the human appendix. However, as effective communicators, it is our responsibility to ensure we choose reliable, trustworthy research upon which to base our arguments. Wikipedia is not considered a reliable source. Any peer-reviewed article is generally considered reliable and worthy of our consideration. Now, we know that these generalizations are usually applicable to academic pursuits, but the applications for our daily lives certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.
It is an unfortunate reality that misinformed and under-informed pundits are given platforms from which they can spew their half-baked, and often, half-witted nonsense. Thankfully, the freedom to do just that is still protected in the U.S., but with advent of social media and more media outlets (in general), there is a greater than ever likelihood that folks who would have rightly been dismissed as crackpots in the past can reach a greater audience than they ever dreamed of reaching. Therefore, it is also more important than ever that we do some research- from a variety of sources- to mitigate our chances of being mis- or under-informed.
[bctt tweet=”The vehicle by which we differentiate between facts and opinions is research. #amreading #research #writing” username=”OurWriteSide”]
Back to my friend. He followed my advice, and read a lot about the subject matter. As I warned him, when he called the friend to try to repair the friendship, the other party stubbornly refused to concede that he was wrong- especially when faced with irrefutable evidence gleaned from reliable sources, and the friendship stayed as broken as it had been. My ex-student turned friend commented on how it still felt good to win, even though he lost a friendship. He had gained the confidence to rely on his own fact-finding abilities, stood up for his beliefs, and felt richer for the experience, despite his sadness for the dissolved friendship.