Expert Advice from Evan Solomon '87
Five ways to get out of the info echo chamber
When I think of the tidal wave of information which swamps us all every day, I often think of the old expression, “water everywhere, but not a drop to drink.” There’s an abundance of information, but too often it’s recycled, reused material that passes for conventional wisdom. It’s hard to know who to trust, what to read, or where to spend your scarcest resource: time.
To compound the problem, the deluge of information from powerful platform media like Facebook and Google has been weaponized by political partisanship, “fake news”, digital algorithms, bots and malign political actors who want to manipulate your ideas and have no obligation to higher values like objectivity, the social good or empathy.
As a journalist, I can fight back by cultivating sources, conducting personal interviews and calling dozens of people a day to get multiple points of reference. But that’s my job. Most people have no time for that. So what do you do?
Here are five ways for a good critical thinker to avoid the information echo chamber and get useful, original, trustworthy information.
1 - Brands Matter: Choose five diverse, quality news brands whose core values are based on trusted information and switch between them. Social media platforms like Facebook make money in lots of ways, so if they screw up on, say, fake news, they still survive. The Wall Street Journal, the Economist or the Globe and Mail cannot. If they get it wrong too often they go out of business, so they have an incentive to report accurately. There are lots of changes in media, but brands that live and die by the values of good journalism will survive. Read, watch and listen to these good news outlets so you can get different perspectives. For example, NationalNewswatch.com is a helpful aggregator for a political junkie to get a diverse read from good sources.
2 - Read Books: It sounds old-fashioned, but in a culture where quick information is abundant, deep perspective has scarcity value. Most great leaders and CEOs I speak to say that by reading books, they turn information into actionable intelligence by filtering it through a deeper perspective.
3 - Change Your Mind: As the saying goes, a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds. When the facts change – and they do all too often – change your mind. Change that is evidence-based is a sign of strength, not weakness.
4 - Get out of Your Bubble: Nothing gives you better knowledge than first-hand experience, so leave your bubble. Travel to new places, talk to people and make sure you meet people outside of your own comfort zone.
5 - Listen to Your Kids: Want to keep up with new ideas and change? Talk to young people and take them seriously. They are the pulse of change we are all looking to discover.