I’m the youngest of four, southern, and the daughter of feminists. If you weren’t aware, that’s a very particular, aggressive type of stubborn.
One unhelpful way this comes out is when my friends start recommending movies and tv shows.
“Meredith, you should watch Downton Abbey. It’s great.”
“Yeah. Ok! I’ll watch it sometime!”
2 weeks later…
“You haven’t watched Downton Abbey, yet?! You’re going to love it! Sybil, Meredith! Sybil!”
“I mean, ok. Sybil sounds great, I guess, but I’m watching Breaking Bad.
“Stop watching that and start watching Downton Abbey! Sybil!”
2 weeks later…
“So. How are you liking Downton Abbey? You haven’t watched it yet? Meredith, it’s going to be your favorite show.”
“….you realize I’m never going to watch it now, don’t you? Downton Abbey is dead to me. As is this friendship.”
- Yes. I am a pretty miserable human.
- I watched the first season of Downton Abbey. It was fine.
- The harder people push, the more I want to push back.
I’ve noticed a similar phenomenon lately. People have certain views, and want others to know those views, so we can have those views together. The center of the action: social networking.
You know what I’m talking about: politics.
People are angry at the current administration and they want everyone to know they are angry and they want to convince others that angry is the correct way to be. People share articles. They share memes. They like their friend’s status, and sign every petition. And then share every petition. And next time they see you, they’ll ask if you signed the petition.
Full disclosure, I am one of those people. There is a lot to be angry about these days, and you’re not sure how to fix it, so you do the easiest thing. You pick up your phone.
I’m already tired of being angry. It’s day 5. I better eat more protein because I have a sneaking suspicion that I will have even more reasons to be angry. Probably tomorrow. I need a better cardio program.
I also recognize that when someone pushes something, it’s easier and easier to just hear noise, and want to push back. And people are pushing harder and harder.
So today we’re not talking about politics. We’re talking about facts.
Just the facts.
Guys, facts are great! Facts are on your side! It is because of facts that I know Earth goes around the sun, and if I combine certain ingredients, I will have a cake, and if I punch a stranger in the face, they won’t like it!
I just googled “what happens if I punch a stranger in the face?” The internet’s consensus is “ummm….don’t.” I like to think I’m now on Google’s list of people coming to terms with their need for anger management. It’s really the best list. Everyone says so.
What is a fact?
If something is a fact, it has been proven. It is indisputable. Experts have been on the case, crunched the numbers, pointed to something and said, “that thing is true.” And we listen to them, because they’re experts and can prove it.
The other option is, we know something is a fact because most of us have eyeballs and ears that work. Our brains can draw conclusions based on the world around us. I step outside and know it’s not raining because there isn’t water falling from the sky.
I know a man made fun of a disabled person because there’s a video of him making fun of a disabled person. I know a man bragged about sexual assault because there’s a recording of him bragging about sexual assault. My eyes see that. My ears hear that. It is a fact. Don’t let anyone tell you not to trust your senses.
Where the facts aren’t
But what if I don’t like that fact? What if I want a better fact? What if I want an alternative fact?
That’s not how facts work, you goon.
I realize that some of the world’s greatest ideas started in opposition to what everyone thought was “fact.” There was a point in time where everyone thought the world was flat. It was a fact. It’s not anymore.
The fact is, someone disagreed, and then they backed it up. They explained why. They cited their sources. And let’s be clear, they didn’t cite Wikipedia.
There is such a thing as a reputable source. Other sources are garbage. Sometimes garbage can be entertaining, but don’t listen to it! Don’t listen to the garbage!
If I said, “I think there are probably aliens on the moon because I saw the acclaimed documentary Aliens on the Moon: The Truth Exposed,” you should disagree with me! You would be allowed to stop talking to me! Because that documentary doesn’t count as reputable!
If I said, “I am great at popping and locking! The best people say so! Only I can make the dance floor great again!” you should disagree with me! “The best people” is not a source. It’s a meaningless phrase. I can’t prove what I said. It’s not a fact. It’s not cool.
If I said, “this picture of 4 people is actually a picture of 15 people, and I’m right.” you should disagree with me. It’s a picture of 4 people.
If I said, “well, alternatively, it’s a picture of 15 people,” you should disagree with me. It’s a picture of 4 people.
If I said, “it’s my right to disagree with you. It’s a picture of 15 people,” you should disagree with me.
It’s a picture of 4 people.
And then you might worry that I am either a) losing my grip on reality, or b) purposefully lying. And then you should disagree with me, and worry why I find it necessary to lie so much.
What do I do?
I don’t claim to be an expert on politics. Or the media. Or most things. I am figuring this out as I go, but I was a student once. I’ve compiled a mean bibliography in my day, and I know that there are certain sources that count and some that don’t.
I also know that there is such a thing as a fact, and you can’t disagree with facts without an awful lot of proof to go with it.
So do your homework. Know who the subject matter experts are. Why are they experts? Do their colleagues agree that they are experts? If so, use their research, their evidence to inform your views. Better yet, make sure there is evidence. That’s a great start.
What do their detractors say? Why do they say that? Is it because they were punched in the face? People hate that.
Read articles. Read articles from different sites. Read articles you agree with. Then read articles you disagree with. Then don’t read the comments because that’s where hope goes to die. No really, don’t read the comments. *grabs your shoulders and shakes* Don’t read the comments!!!
Any Tom, Dick, and “HI EVERYBODY!” can put things on the internet these days, so it’s important for us to dig through the noise and figure out the facts.
You and I may not agree on a lot of things, but I think we can agree there is such a thing as the truth. Indisputable truth. And it’s important to find it. Especially when we are bombarded with fake news, “alternative facts”, and holy smokes, those God-forsaken tweets.
The decisions made by this administration are going to affect you. Make sure you’re armed with facts, so we know when to push back. That is our right.
…..But I’m not talking about politics. I’m just talking about facts.
Anyway, what do I know? I’m just a classic beauty with the face, voice, and dance moves of an angel. The best people say so.