Wondering or pondering: Critical thinking in the digital age

The internet is full of information. It is so full of information that it’s often difficult to find what you’re looking for. Whether its world news, medical information or finding a good vacuum , you have to be careful in validating its source and more importantly its truthfulness. This is where we reach a fork in the digital road. Do we wonder about it or ponder it?

Is this a great deal? It says it is, and it’s on the internet!

What is wondering?

Being filled with a sense of wonder is generally a good thing. Shooting stars, the Grand Canyon, and soccer (aka football around the world) players executing a perfect bicycle kick: These are wonder-inducing events. In another context of the word, wondering is not as positive. When journalism was limited to newspapers and magazines that could be held legally accountable for information published, misinformation was less of an issue. With the internet, though, anyone can set up a website (to include yours truly) and digitally publish around the world in a matter of minutes. Too often, especially on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, links to unverified information, news, etc. are passed along at breakneck speed. Even more often, those who share it forward think it sounds true enough to preclude the need for actual validation. This is the digital equivalent of wondering, as it requires no actual thought as to veracity.

What is pondering?

Pondering is an odd word. Seriously, it is. Say it five times aloud, and tell me it’s not true. If you caught it, give yourself a pat on the back. If you read the “say it aloud” sentence and were ready to immediately agree and post it somewhere on the internet, you would be digitally wondering. If on the other hand, you read it, had the instinctive urge to agree, but made a digital note to verify the truthfulness (or lack thereof), you are a ponderer. Even if we have an urge to concur with something we see on the internet, the urge that follows should be to validate the information. Simply put, pondering is thinking beyond thinking.

Critical thinking does not equal criticism

This isn’t new information for most people. Somewhere in high school or college, critical thinking was a topic of discussion at least once. When it came up, the general idea was to go beyond the general gut reaction thinking influenced by upbringing, political persuasion, etc. The idea is to think more deeply and exhaustively (aka critically). For most, this means examining the overall idea, breaking it into smaller pieces and validating any suspected causation, correlation, etc. between the different elements. If and when the overall idea is validated as true – or at a minimum probable – we can share it forward whether it be in spoken conversation or as a social media post. If the opposite outcome occurs, we have a responsibility to also say or post the same. Granted, your Facebook friends or Twitter followers may not agree. That’s fine. If they take your information and employ the same critical thinking to analyze the information, they’re doing it right. Critical thinking is not a point to point timeline. It’s a cyclical process that should be employed multiple times per day.

“I thought critically and spoke up. Now I have fewer Facebook Friends.”

Yes, moving from wondering about the truthfulness of information to pondering it to critically thinking about it is not guaranteed to get you more digital friends and followers. It does though guarantee that the collective intellectual and emotional maturity level of friends and followers will increase. This isn’t to say that those who disagree, digitally slander you, and block you aren’t smart. It just means they’re not using their intelligence to understand and appreciate your viewpoint. In the end, whether in person or digitally, that’s their loss, not yours.