Importance of Critical Thinking in the Age of (Mis)-Information

Information Overload can Drown Us

We are literally and metaphorically drowning in information. From the time we wake up and check WhatsApp messages to the time we login to Facebook and Twitter or Google News, we are bombarded with an excess of information and data from multiple sources that can leave us drained and confused if we cannot sort out the facts from fiction and information from misinformation.

Indeed, Information Overload, the term used to refer to the surfeit of information that we consume every day is taking such a huge toll on us that most of us often fall prey to rumors, half-truths, and downright lies.

As recent events worldwide such as the Election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States and the Brexit vote show, separating the news from the fake news and the truth from post truth and facts from alternative facts has become that much more important if we are to make informed and intelligent choices.

The Need for Critical Thinking in the Information Age

This is where Critical Thinking and the ability to think for oneself without falling prey to misinformation in the Age of Information come into play. The term Critical Thinking refers to the capacity to read and digest information and then make judgments based on the information through the lens of objectivity and one’s own thought processes instead of relying on others to make the decisions for us.

Indeed, critical thinking can be said to be the most important skill that one must develop as part of the cognitive and intellectual abilities that are necessary for the toolkit of any professional or student whether they are in the corporate world or they are in the public sector.

How to Develop Critical Thinking

One can develop critical thinking skills in many ways. The time tested, and most effective method of developing critical thinking is through reading a wide variety of sources including books, academic journals, reputed magazines, and independent and objective news sources. In addition, critical thinking can be developed by following the works of famous journalists and opinion makers without any hidden agendas and biases.

Having said that, one must also note that even the most objective of the authors and the opinion makers have their own biases and hence, it is very important for us to question everything and anything and not take someone’s word at face value all the time.

Critical Thinking for Corporate Professionals

If you are wondering whether Critical Thinking is only for those who have the time to read serious books and journals, remember that even in the corporate world, it is essential to have cognitive and intellectual abilities where one can sift through the jumble of information and data and make meaningful conclusions.

For instance, when professionals and executives want business news and information as well as data regarding the future trends, more often than not, they turn to reputed sources instead of relying on the “Breaking News” stories which sometimes are thinly disguised attempts by rivals and those who are paying for it to push their point of view.

Example of the Demonetization Exercise

Indeed, critical thinking in one’s career is as important as it is in one’s life. Consider for example the recent Demonetization exercise in India. Throughout the entire process, business professionals had a need for the impact that DeMo would have on their businesses and the resultant effects on the sales and other future forecasts.

Now, in this situation, there is an acute need for accurate and reliable information in addition to valid and realistic data on the nuances and the fine print of the DeMo exercise. For this to happen, businesspersons need to necessarily look to objective analyses and more importantly, use their critical thinking skills to make their judgments regarding the impact of the Demonetization on their businesses.

Develop an Eye for Detail and a Nose for Objectivity

Thus, what is needed is an ability to think for oneself rather than falling prey to WhatsApp rumors or Social Media “Chatter”. This can only come through by developing an “Eye for Detail” and a “Nose for Objectivity” without being distracted by the humungous information that we are bombarded with.

In addition, even for those who are not at the top and are middle-level managers, they often need to follow their instincts and rely on their own thinking if they have to judge what is in their best interest and what is against their interests.

Critical Thinking for Students

Coming to the students and others just beginning their careers, it is very important for them to inculcate critical thinking as a habit right from their student days so as to have a well-developed faculty for making independent decisions and not relying on misinformation or disinformation.

For instance, consider the number of recruitment scams and fake companies that take money from students and then cheat them. Unless one knows whom to believe and what to believe, the chances are that one can easily fall prey to such scams if one does not think for oneself and instead, blindly follows others.

Conclusion

Lastly, as this article has pointed out earlier, do not for a moment think that critical thinking is only for intellectuals and not for laypersons.

Indeed, anyone can think critically for themselves anytime and more importantly, at this present time when one is bombarded with so much information that is confusing and confounding and hence, more than anything, critical thinking is badly needed if we are to keep our head above the sea of information overload which can drown us unless we learn to think for ourselves.


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