As we all know, through social media, information disseminates with lightning speed. Instantly, millions are up to date and provided conclusions to a variety of stories and issues. Users simply acquire, retain, and click (i.e., re-tweet, like or dislike), easy-peasy- free of thought. Is this troubling? Robert Frost once said “Thinking isn’t agreeing or disagreeing. That’s voting.”
Accordingly, if a re-tweet is nothing more than a vote for the product of the analysis of others , and if clicking Facebook’s “like” button simply allows over 1 billion users to avoid intellectual expression all together, are we setting a trend abandoning 2500 years of trans-disciplinary critical thinking? Is this dangerous to future generations? Is this a good trend, beneficial perhaps? Is it worrisome that social media allows so many to routinely supplant active argumentation?
In 1987, the National Council for Excellence in Critical Thinking defined critical thinking as “the intellectually disciplined process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication, as a guide to belief and action. In its exemplary form, it is based on universal intellectual values that transcend subject matter divisions: clarity, accuracy, precision, consistency, relevance, sound evidence, good reasons, depth, breadth, and fairness. Critical thinking can be seen as having two components: 1) a set of information and belief generating and processing skills, and 2) the habit, based on intellectual commitment, of using those skills to guide behavior.”
Thinking is thus to be contrasted with: the mere acquisition and retention of information alone, because it involves a particular way in which information is sought and treated. If this is true, it means that the net intellectual engagement in context- for millions of social media users- amounts to nothing more than a preferential re-tweet, and/or clicking “like”/“dislike,” with a smile.
But with only so many users, social media remains a form of entertainment. One may argue: Relax! It’s fun. There are plenty of people left who still read and think! Okay, but what happens when 5 or 6 billion people become devoted users? How much fun would that look like? Perhaps it is just evolution?
Could it be that “thinking” is simply a natural process that will adapt to social media and evolve accordingly, in a beneficial way? Perhaps an active mode of thinking- where the thinker consciously separates facts from opinions and challenges assumptions- is becoming outdated?