Developing Healthy Internet Habits

Be Critical of Everything you Read

Most things that you read or see on the web today come from someone with an agenda. A common one is profit: everyone from your local grocery store to multinational corporations have found some way to generate money from the internet, whether its ad sales or convincing you to go to a store nearby.

With that said, those relationships are not always clear, and many websites, especially those calling themselves sources of news, do not make their economic, political, or social agendas clear to readers. Instead, these sites present their information as the truth, and invite you to dig deeper in the articles linked at the bottom.

Especially if you agree with the perspective that a piece of information is offering you, I think it’s a good idea to ask yourself who might want you to agree with that point of view, and what they may gain from you either believing them or taking action based on what you’ve read. This is easy to do for things you disagree with, but is more important, in my view, to do so when you read something with which you agree.

Find Contrary Sources

Knowing that whatever you’re reading is written by a human being, and one that likely has not only a point of view but also a motivation to write whatever you’re reading, I think it’s important to actively seek out information that contradicts things that you agree with and would choose to read for fun.

This is important for two reasons. First is that, if, like me, you prefer to base your opinions and ideas on facts, we need to apply something like the scientific method to those facts before we make up our minds on an opinion or an analysis. That is to say, you have a logical and moral obligation to try to disconfirm whatever fact you’re using as the basis of your opinion.

Second, seeking out and reading contradicting sources can be some inoculation against getting more extreme in your views and perspectives over time. Being reminded that there are people who think differently from you, and that think that way for good reasons, is critical to being able to participate in normal social life. Otherwise, people might spend years only seeing information with which they agree, which, in my research, fairly clearly leads to people mistaking their viewpoints with being objectively true and needing to be enforced by increasingly troubling means.

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