GatekeepersSeptember 23rd, 2012
tags: choices
Gatekeepers

"Google." My favorite verb.

I'm a huge fan of access to, and exchange of, large quantities of information, and I know I'm not alone. It's estimated that nearly 80% of baby boomers - nearly 60 million - are online and spend more time there than any other group. Women boomers over 55 are also the fastest growing "friends" on Facebook. We're the most technologically tuned-in of any demographic.

Intuitive search engines and social media have increased both the availability of information and our opportunities to connect and share online. The communal conversation has ballooned and the standard for assimilation is speeding up. If "hashtag" isn't part of your vocabulary, you're behind the curve. This expanded exposure could potentially improve your quality of life, but it could just as easily overwhelm you.

The teacher Shirdi Sai Baba is commonly credited with these simple prompts for self review when considering our words: "Is it necessary? Is it true? Is it kind? Will it improve on the silence?" What he has offered are filters with which to discern and judge what we dispense. Given the ever-enlarging conversation, I'm proposing we learn to apply similar filters to the information we are willing to take in.

The Center for Critical Thinking and Moral Critique conducts advanced research on critical thinking and has established Universal Intellectual Standards to guide learners. They list seven standards to be applied to our thought processes when we're concerned about the quality of our reasoning, but, for the purpose of choosing what information to assimilate, three standards seem applicable and pertinent.

Is it clear? (true) This is the entry criteria. If the information isn't clear, I can't decide if it's relevant or fair. I want it simplified when possible - I don't want to work harder than is absolutely necessary. There's a lot vying for my attention.

Is it relevant? (necessary) This can depend on where I'm headed and what I want to accomplish. It will change according to my agenda at the time. It's my job to keep this criteria in the front of my mind as I scan information.

Is it fair? (kind) It's human nature to present information according to our personal biases, but I prefer to read and watch material offered from a balanced and thoughtful perspective. As a consumer, I'd rather not have to sift through someone else's unfinished business.

I guess I shouldn't be surprised that the standards that most appeal to me can easily be paired with three of Sai Baba's prompts, and I can whole-heartedly echo, "Is it an improvement over silence?" In a world of stimulation and distraction, silence might be the ultimate competition.

There are any number of standards to choose from and which standards we adopt is a personal preference. And, just in case you're wondering, the three standards I apply to the information I take in are the same three I use when writing my posts. I hope it makes for enjoyable reading. :-)