My humble opinions · Pure information · Self-development

The one on reality

This is the short version of the article. If you have time for the longer version, click here. I would like to address a few sociological concerns of mine regarding the pursuit of reality. I believe that since the ideas in our head control our whole lives, it is important to question where they originate.

They can come from us conforming to the group in fear of standing out, or simply because we don’t have the time and the means necessary to verify each information ourselves. We must then often rely on more qualified authorities to do so (officials, scientists, journalists …). Also, the more ambiguous a situation is, the more people are likely to go against what they already know. This influence is exploited by information sources and may result in people losing their self-awareness.

conformity

Furthermore, the majority of people agree on a consensus reality that is heavily spread through mainstream and social media. However, the centralization and the censorship of these prevent them from being reliable sources of information. That there is general agreement upon something does not make it true.

Finally, another issue arises when people project their desires on to reality, or their perceptions of reality. A false belief has the power to shape our behaviour in a way that that belief becomes true in the end. A typical everyday example is when a teacher has low expectations for a student and transmits his perception to the student, so that the student performs worse than s.he otherwise would.

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

What I wished to bring out in this article were the dangers of consensus reality and of confusing the perception of reality with reality itself. Relying on authorities is inevitable, but we mustn’t lose our self-awareness. It is important not to act upon inconsistent thoughts or beliefs, and to be skeptical when using mainstream and social media. Not to confuse skepticism and denial.

Clicking on “Continue reading” will open the original full version of the article, with a longer introduction and more illustrated information, and the references that helped me to write it.

One of my quests in life is to live, as much as I can, truthfully. Or rather than a quest, it is the vehicle I use to live in peace. I think I am the way I am because of a strong sense of justice, and the hate of being lied to. Therefore I have questioned what is true and real, from a philosophical, sociological, or even spiritual point of view, and I will probably never stop. In the end, I do not “chose” the reality that suits me best, but the one that works for everyone. I may write more about my personal feelings in another article, but first I would like to address a few sociological concerns of mine regarding the pursuit of reality.

We have been taught all the things we know through our own experiences, but also our home and our education. We cannot be sure of any of them, yet these ideas in our head control our whole lives, all our choices, and it is important to question where they come from. I will try to describe three general origins of our view of reality that are questionable for me : conformity, consensus, and perceptions.

We like to conform

In general, we all conform to some social norms that help our lives as part of a community. Life seems to flow more harmoniously when we know how to act and don’t stand out. We don’t have the time and the means necessary to verify each information ourselves, so we must often rely on more qualified authorities to do so (officials, scientists, journalists …). Pondering the benefits (power and/or money) and the disadvantages (perceived as extreme ideas) they get from spreading their knowledge is a good starting point in figuring out the truth.

In addition, the more ambiguous a situation is, the more people are likely to go against what they already know, particularly when people feel insecure or incompetent, as shown in the Asch experiments. This influence is exploited by all informative entities (mainstream media, politicians, institutions …), and may result in people losing their self-awareness and ending up in very dysfunctional outcomes.

We accept the consensus

Consensus reality is the one agreed by the majority of people. The problems of the consensus view are numerous, the first being that it is often the most accessible one, instead of being the most accepted one. The consensus can come from school in the best case, but also from mainstream media (press, TV, radio) and social media (Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram). Mainstream media are very centralized and show what (choice of guests), when (choice of diffusing times) and how (choice of specific words) they want to show, influencing the listener’s opinion, while their message is actually empty of “information”. The advantage of social media was that people could look up themselves the information they needed and every person in the world could contribute to the debate, but in most recent years, it has unfortunately become more and more censored in favor of the consensus : the timelines (or the recommendations on YouTube) are chosen by the media itself, “inconvenient” material is blocked and promoting material is displayed on the front page.

This leads to the second issue of consensus reality : the majority of people are misinformed and, therefore, their views cannot be held as a good factor in determining reality. This is a typical argument against democracy, by the way, but it is not the topic of this article. The conclusion I aim for being : that there is general agreement upon something does not make it true.

We rely on perceptions

Another issue arises when people project their desires on to reality, or their beliefs. The Thomas Theorem states that a false belief has the power to shape our behaviour in a way that that belief becomes true in the end. A typical everyday example is when a teacher has low expectations for a student and transmits his perception to the student, so that the student performs worse than s.he otherwise would. The contrary with high expectations also works, but the effects of guiding our actions by the perceived nature of a situation are more often negative than positive. It is therefore important to understand the reality – or not – of a situation before acting upon it. Manipulating the interpretation of perceptions was in fact an outstanding strategy to conquer throughout History (cf. psychological wars).

If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.

What I wished to bring out in this article were the dangers of consensus reality and of confusing the perception of reality with reality itself. Relying on authorities is inevitable, but we mustn’t lose our self-awareness. It is important not to act upon inconsistent thoughts or beliefs (as in the Milgram experiments), and to be skeptical when using mainstream and social media. Not to confuse skepticism and denial.


References

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