Opinions on the Internet (Or in the Real World)

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It seems likely that anyone reading this in the moment knows that there’s a worldwide pandemic going on. There are certainly people out there who don’t get what that means, but it’s likely there are fewer folks all of the time who don’t know that something is going on.

I’m personally in a non-essential industry and have been off work for two weeks now. Staying busy, so it’s not so bad yet. That may change. My wife works for an essential service, so her stress level is higher than it needs to be. That probably won’t change for a while.

Busy or not, I’m spending too much time on social media. Yes, it’s most of the social I really get right now, but that’s no excuse.

And there are trends.

Most of those trends are people keeping themselves amused in ways that don’t involve COVID or help keep each other in touch with friends and coworkers.

But some of them essentially boil down to opinions on medical advice.

In terms of opinions, remember that everyone is free to hold any opinion they like, but the rest of us don’t have to agree with it or listen to it. And, really, regardless of what social media platforms would have us believe, we’re only entitled to hold an opinion we can back up with sound reasoning and facts. Anything that can’t be defended is entitled only to be dismissed. And the phrase, “I’m entitled to my opinion” is either an open admission that you don’t care about facts or that you’ve lost the argument.

It’s hard to have an informed opinion and it’s work to make sure our opinions are as informed as they can be. Which makes us lazy, so anything we can halfway back up with a little handwavium inside our heads is good enough for the most part.

Except it’s not.

In terms of medical advice, I think the rest of us should be gently, and sometimes not so gently, reminding those folks to keep their medical advice to themselves and leave things to the experts.

Because here’s the thing: except for the medical professionals, none of us really knows enough to have an informed medical opinion. And if we don’t have an informed opinion, we need to remember to trust the people we do. That’s something that seems to have fallen away from common sense in the last couple of decades. Somehow, we’ve made it so that trusting expert opinion is the exact opposite of the default. Yes, question authority. Yes, ask questions of the experts. Yes, expect explanations and clarity and transparency. When you do get it, that tells you something, too.

I fully recognize that it’s not always easy to tell who has an informed opinion. We can only judge by their words and actions and try to figure out from that, and the people working with and against them, what politics might be involved. It’s just that a lot of times we can’t be bothered to try.

And so we have thousands (or hundreds of thousands) of people giving medical advice because of a half-formed opinion they saw on the internet or something they feel in their heart is true. It’s why there are still people saying not to take ibuprofen if you’ve possibly been exposed to COVID because that makes it worse when every medical authority has backed away from that unless you’re already one of those people who shouldn’t take it. It’s why there are still people who think their immune systems are fine and they aren’t worried about getting it so all of these precautions we’re taking are stupid and we shouldn’t be worried either. It’s why some people think silver solution will protect them from the virus, or praying, or vitamin C, or essential oils. It’s why the conspiracy nuts are in full swing warning about 5G and how it’s actually a bioweapon and that the vaccine they eventually develop will be to put mind control RFID chips in our blood and how the secret rulers of the planet are just doing it to take away our rights and freedoms.

It might seem like I’m getting off track, but this is all stuff I’ve seen today.

I remind myself that none of us are under no obligation to accept someone’s opinion, or advice based on it, unless they can back it up with sufficient reality. If they can’t, you can kindly remind them, with a grandiose wave of your hand, “Lo, before you is the field in which I grow my fucks. See thou that it is barren.”

Or use nicer words. Your call. Mostly, I use the laugh emoji and move on.

But remember that none of us is informed about everything, and most of us don’t really have a solid grasp of epidemiology, virology, or COVID itself. There are people who do, and those are the folks we should be listening to right now, not some random voice on social media.

But hey, that’s just my opinion. We can talk about it if you like.

Stay safe and be well, everyone.

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