A lot of discussions these days – the ones where you ultimately have to walk away, or at least agree to disagree because you can’t actually believe what you’re seeing/hearing/reading… end like this:

“Where on earth did you get that idea from?”

“I researched it.”

The “researched it” thing gets thrown around a lot these days, and as per the famous quote from The Princess Bride… “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Unless you compiled a literature review, and wrote (or at least, read) abstracts of the articles you read… and/or collected a random sample of sources and performed an independent analysis of their credibility… and, if not, at least looked into the sources of those articles (authors, publishers and, most importantly, funders) and dug into that… for fallacies, distortions or just plain-old, flat-out lies… you didn’t really research it.

And even if you didn’t do any of that, did you at least think about the source of the article and why the aforementioned list (author, publisher, funder) might have been motivated to distribute it? What about the people who refer or promote the article; what might be their motivations? This wouldn’t be research, but it would be at least a semblance of critical thinking that might serve to possibly justify your opinion with respect to the credibility of your sources.

To be clear, clicking a link to a video or an article from your finely-tuned, curated feed on Facebook or Instagram or Snapchat or TikTok or whatever flavor-of-the-day social media platform serves as your de-facto news source – no, that’s not research. In fact, given the way with which that information is making its way to you, it’s perhaps as opposite to research as you can get. It’s spoon-feeding you exactly what you want to hear, because then you’ll click on it and generate some revenue for someone far down the line. And, in doing so, pad your conformity-bias just a little bit more because something new agrees with it… and set you up to click the next related thing.

Digging around the internet is the place to do research these days, but what exactly you’re doing makes all the difference. There’s a lot of good stuff out there; it’s just a question of wading through the crap to find it, and using some methodology to achieve that.

Incidentally, Wikipedia… a relatively good place to find a pretty good summary of anything within the entire body of knowledge of human history — can be easily downloaded. As crazy as it sounds, it’s only 10GB (compressed)… which is 42GB uncompressed, ie plain text… which means all of it, like all of Wikipedia – every single article – fits easily onto a $15 64GB USB thumb drive. You can carry around with you the entire knowledge base of humanity on your keychain, with lots of extra room for pictures and family videos. Not a bad thing to carry around in case you’re shipwrecked in the middle of nowhere with your solar-powered laptop. Or abducted by aliens.

Yeah, aliens… they’re here, living among us. It’s true; I researched it.

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