Professional Opinion-Havers

Opinions are like junk food

I spend a lot of time thinking about disinformation, which is a wild and complex topic. It can be hard to get a handle on it. A metaphor that works for me is monitoring my “information diet,” similarly to how people try not to eat too much fat and sugar.

When you read a reputable non-fiction book, that’s like eating vegetables. When you read someone’s hot take, that’s more like junk food. Tasty, but not healthy. Some are so enjoyable but junky that they’re more like a deep fried twinkie at a state fair. Delicious, but something to limit.

I have a rule of thumb for figuring out what sorts of information I should seek out: “could this person lose their job if one of their facts was wrong or willfully misleading?” If you’re reading real journalism, by actual find-finders working for reputatable news sources, the answer is yes. If you’re reading an opinion piece, the answer is no. Real journalism can be good for you. Everything else is junk food. Enjoyable, addictive, exciting, sugary, wonderful, horrible junk food.

Today I noticed that Facebook’s advisory board passed down their decision on Trump’s Facebook account. The actual facts of the story are simple: they upheld the ban, explained things Facebook needs to improve, and gave the company six months to make a final decision that is in line with their policies. You can read the factual, nutrious source material here.

But that’s boring. Fortunately there are a lot of Professional Opinion-Havers in the world ready to give you the deep-fried Twinkie version of the news. Seemingly everyone, from your friend on Twitter trying to get to 100 followers, to op-ed writers at the New York Times, to someone trying to sound smart at a cocktail party love days like today because it gives them source material to increase their reach. It lets them broadcast their opinions and sell their wares to a hungry audience.

Oh my.

The good news is you can ignore them. If you’re interested, you can read the source material. And if you’re not, you can focus on other things like reading super insightful people like me on Medium. Don’t remember to like, follow, subscribe, hit me up on Patreon, and engage with me in the comments!

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