Is Critical Ignoring An Important Skill In Our Digital Age?
Over many years, when I have been asked about educational courses important to any student, I always suggest they take a class on critical thinking. I became keenly aware of this skill in high school when I joined the debate team. During high school and my early college years, I participated in many debate contests where logic and critical thinking were essential to any debate.
This particular skill has been crucial to my current work as a technology analyst as I have to look at technology and its impact more critically than a standard business person or consumer.
But I am using my critical thinking skills a lot more these days, thanks to social media. This is a vital skill to apply when looking at comments on social media, where so much is based on uneducated opinions, falsehoods, and bot-driven misinformation.
I recently read a provocative article originally written by The Conversation and re-published by the World Economic Forum about another skill they call “critical ignoring.”
They define it in this way-
“Critical ignoring is the ability to choose what to ignore and where to invest one’s limited attentional capacities. Critical ignoring is more than just not paying attention – it’s about practicing mindful and healthy habits in the face of information overabundance.
We understand it as a core competence for all citizens in the digital world. Without it, we will drown in a sea of information that is, at best, distracting and, at worst, misleading and harmful.”
I was struck by the term they use in the article that says it needs to be “a core competence for all citizens in the digital world.”
I read this article three times before it sunk in that this skill is important since its impact on our lives could be significant.
I suspect that most people who look at social media as they peruse this content view it through the lenses of their own life, interests, and in many cases, political persuasion.
However, as many know, only some things posted on social media are true or even accurate. Yet, many people look at these posts and do not even question their validity or accuracy. Also, so many comments are opinions, not based on facts.
People have become more skeptical about the content they see on social media. That is a good trend. But imagine if you view most social media through critical ignoring. That means not even reading it or passing it by because it is suspicious and not worth any brainpower time.
Critical ignoring will become even more important in the age of AI.
Mark Cuban recently weighed in on AI and said, “tools like ChatGBT will only worsen online misinformation.”
In fact, China is deploying deep fake newscasts today. CNN’s Cecelia Wang recently investigated a campaign of anti-U.S. deep fake newscasts sent out by pro-China bot accounts on Twitter and Facebook. The newscasters look real and share anti-U.S. propaganda.
Deep fakes are going to be a severe problem across the board. I have seen some deep fakes of personalities that you can’t tell are fake, and those behind them put their words into their mouths.
AI will make deep fakes even more realistic and could become a considerable problem for famous personalities and government officials who could be deep faked to cause harm and mayhem in many ways.
The standard joke is that not everything on the internet is true. However, with critical ignoring applied, much of what is seen on social media needs to be disregarded.