Opinions have always been popular, but the Internet Age has catapulted them into rarified public air historically reserved for the famous. Today there is a bull market for Opinions with plenty of buyers and sellers; trading is brisk.
Social media provides an egalitarian platform. Career academicians with multiple terminal degrees and people who were held back in the third grade 12 times and get most of their world news from the National Enquirer get the same invitation—share.
Surely freedom of speech is precious and should be guarded with vigilance. But are all opinions created equal? What if we disagree? The problem is not that we have opinions and want to share them—the problem is the trading value we expect and give.
Access to simple, slick packaging is both boon and bane. It has never been easier to dress up a pig in a fine suit of clothes, brush his hair, whiten his teeth, give him a breath mint, and parade him in front of the whole world like a gentleman dandy. Even the neophyte computer user can produce and publish stylish, image-rich, attractive content that may be absolute bunk.
Many blogs should include a tobacco-like warning: This article looks appealing, but its contents may damage your brain.
It is becoming harder to pick out the expert opinion that comes from someone who has made a career of studying the subject at hand, like a meteorologist. We rightly tend to give their opinions more credence than, say, Grandpa’s bunion pain predicting a tsunami. The dilemma with finding an expert opinion is the surety of finding another one that is 180 degrees diametrically opposite. Sorting out the truth is tricky.
Personal opinions about taste, on the other hand, are never wrong. “I like my steaks medium” becomes problematic only we try to force our personal opinions on others. We should publicize our personal opinions with the understanding that being heard is fair coin for the exchange. We should read personal opinions realizing there is no guarantee they came from a sane person.
Opinions become important when they influence our personal choices. When the issues are complex we tend to get the data we use to draw conclusions from sources we trust. But we have information overload, ambiguity, and conflict.
When studying a matter we should exercise due diligence and remember that all opinions—even our own—are not created equal. Don’t let easy access to information dilute disciplined research.
As the wise sage Ben Franklin wrote:
For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged, by better information or fuller consideration, to change opinions, even on important subjects, which I once thought right but found to be otherwise.
But then that’s just his opinion. What’s yours?