Critical of Thinking

Just so you know, conspiracies are real, and I’m currently in one that doesn’t want me sleeping through the night. Last night, in my carefree Flonase-assisted sleep, the smoke detector went off. For no apparent reason other than to jerk me awake at 3:40.

facebook mask 0620
Borrowed completely without permission.

When Facebook first started attracting widespread attention (can you remember back that far?), I assumed it was just the next in a series of social internet fads, none of which I had joined. The only example I can remember (because I can’t think that far back) is MySpace, but there had been an entire sequence of them, and I figured Facebook was just one more to not get attached to.

To be technical, I wasn’t attached to any of these platforms I never signed up for, and this includes Facebook. I could see some of the appeal: staying in touch with friends, reconnecting with lost friends and classmates, joining like-minded groups. But I never signed up. Who had the time? Besides, it was just the latest fad and everything would have to migrate to the next platform.

For whatever reason, Facebook is the platform that stuck — and I have missed the boat. Not that I miss it, although I did get left completely out of my 30th high school reunion because the event was coordinated exclusively on Facebook and the same thing may be happening this year, since I’ve heard nothing of my 40th, which may not be taking place due to virus. Apparently I’ll never know.

Now, we do have a Facebook page for Pat’s and I put several of the posts on it at a rate of about one every other month. Isn’t that how social media works?

To be more correct, I used to do this. Among the intractable problems I have zero skill sets to solve these days is the hijacking of the Pat’s Facebook page. Visitors and followers can go to the page, but if you are logged in and try to go there as the page owner, you’ll never make it.

Sometimes you are met with a blank page and a frenetic wash of web addresses scrolling through the address bar at the top of the computer; other times you get “You have been redirected.” They advise clearing cookies, but that’s never going to work when this happens regardless of browser, regardless of computer: mine at work and home, Vann’s at work and home; Kara’s at work and home, all across multiple browsers. That suggests it’s Facebook’s problem, but of course there’s no one at this giant corporation available to help.

So I’m not feeling very warm and fuzzy toward Facebook anyway, but then we get to the dissemination of “information” that is leading directly to the stupidizing of America.

I don’t know. Maybe this many people were already out there, not only ignorant but proud of it. If you can think back past computer-assisted social media at all, there was the National Enquirer, which was likely the newspaper in the United States with the largest circulation. And in the early days of cable television, “TLC” stood for “The Learning Channel,” intended to provide educational material.

Not that watching little and morbidly obese people and popping zits isn’t endlessly informative, but that wasn’t the original content of this channel. And there were actual history programs on The History Channel, not pawn brokers and people doing restoration work.

But Facebook amplifies misinformation far better and faster than the Enquirer ever dreamed of, and somehow puts this stamp of authenticity on it. I may have mentioned, months ago, a man in New England who, in contrast to his own liberal beliefs, would post completely baseless information to punk conspiracy theorists, and then try to show them how gullible they’d been. That backfired, because many of these people would only believe what they read in their feed and no other news source, and even when the man would confess directly to them, they opted to believe his made-up conspiracy.

And now what’s making the rounds is anti-mask propaganda. There’s no good way to put this politely, so let me just say that Kara checked in with the local crazies the other day, and the post listed several reasons why wearing masks is bad for you. There was no attribution for this “information,” of course, but that is not going to stop many of the people reading this from assuming it must be true because they read it on Facebook.

After a local economist, and I use that term loosely, wrote an opinion in the paper two Thursdays ago about how wearing masks will bring about our economic downfall, 23 area scientists, every one of them with advanced degrees, offered scientific fact as rebuttal, plus three economists, also with advance degrees, took issue with his assertions.

But what do any of these learned people know when Facebook is offering the Truth?

Number one on the Facebook list, which I didn’t write down and can’t remember all of, is that masks will cut off your oxygen and suffocate you.

Perhaps we ought to try thinking. Just thinking, never mind critically. Let’s see: for decades now, doctors and dentists and many others in medical settings have worn masks as they go through their workday. All day every day, in some cases. Many people in the trades wear masks to keep out dust or silicate particles. All day. In populous Asia, ordinary citizens routinely wear masks as protection from pollution and when they think they might be sick, to prevent spreading germs. Jason wore one through an endless number of Friday the 13th movies.

I am unaware of a single instance of death by mask reported anywhere in the world. (Although it is true that there are people who shouldn’t wear masks for medical reasons.)

And yet, this is not stopping the repetition across Facebook of this incredibly stupid misinformation: masks are bad for you. They will kill you. Better to die slowly by virus, I guess. Not that the virus is real, either, but more people are becoming believers by the day, and yes I mean you, Governors Greg Abbott and Ron DeSantis. Maybe even someday you too, Doug Ducey.

If you did want to think critically, which obviously is more work than getting worked up by Facebook, you could conduct your own simple test. Oximeters are available at pharmacies and everyone’s favorite marketplace, Amazon. So you buy your own oximeter, put it on your finger, and then add a mask.

I mean, theoretically you could just put a mask across your face and wait to see if you suffocate, but if you want empiric proof, see what your own oxygen levels say.

Do I love wearing a mask? No. Do I love wearing shoes all day? No. But these days I’m doing both. I have been wearing a mask every work day and every time I venture near other people. I’m still here, still upright. Still breathing. I might actually be breathing better with the mask than without it, with all the cotton flying around.

And then, if we wanted to think, which obviously not everyone does, we could extrapolate from there. If the number-one point on your list of Why Masks Are Bad is completely, ignorantly wrong, then so might the other points have missed the mark.

But that would require thinking, and why do that when we can get on Facebook instead?



3 thoughts on “Critical of Thinking

  1. Social Media can be real chaotic sometimes, I recently read a report that said more of the Covid-19 propaganda and false information are from social networks, I wish there was a way for founders to impede falsehood information rather than only provocative content because for all I care, preaching to people about the reasons to not wear a facemask could live scores dead within months, that’s if they don’t recover and that to me is more deadly than a nude photo.


  2. I agree. I always thought it was odd that an early cable channel, the Christian Broadcast Network, seemed to have zero issue with violence, showing guns and explosions on nearly every show, but any time the word “damn” came out of an actor’s mouth, this mildest of expletives was beeped. It’s interesting what offends and what doesn’t.


  3. I almost fell off my chair when I saw the crazy hearing fullnof ‘concerned citizens’. I’m concerned now too, but not for the same reasons.


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