Social Media and Overcoming Obstacles to Intellectual Growth
Do you hesitate when it comes to expressing yourself on public platforms? Have you ever found yourself hunched over a Facebook post or tweet? Perhaps you’ve been tagged on a subject you haven’t read about or you want to share an interesting article that you have not quite formed an opinion on. Oftentimes you ignore the tag, or post the piece, blank, devoid of your thoughts and uncertainties because you do not want to seem dumb; you can’t have anyone seeing the gaps in your knowledge and calling you out in public.
Overcoming the Fear Of Being Wrong
By failing to share your thoughts, opinions and inquiries (because you are worried that someone will swiftly reply with a: “you mean you didn’t know that?!”), we are shortchanging ourselves. We are denying ourselves the opportunity to learn something new and the chance to fill in those holes in our knowledge base. When someone ridicules you about not knowing some historical fact or branch of philosophy, what prevents you from asking S/He-Who-Knows-All to tell you more about it, to redirect you to books, videos and talks that can enlighten you on the topic? As the creatives and inventors of yore will tell you: Follow your curiosity. Never be afraid to ask a question because you are concerned with being wrong or appearing ignorant.
In her TED talk “On Being Wrong,” New Yorker writer and Wrongologist Kathryn Schulz emphasizes the importance of freeing ourselves from a mindset and culture that is obsessed with rightness. She also talks about how stepping outside that obsession with rightness is the “single greatest moral, intellectual and creative leap” one can make:
1,200 years before Descartes said his famous thing about “I think therefore I am,” this guy, St. Augustine, sat down and wrote “Fallor ergo sum” — “I err therefore I am.” Augustine understood that our capacity to screw up, it’s not some kind of embarrassing defect in the human system, something we can eradicate or overcome. It’s totally fundamental to who we are. Because, unlike God, we don’t really know what’s going on out there. And unlike all of the other animals, we are obsessed with trying to figure it out. To me, this obsession is the source and root of all of our productivity and creativity.
To the “Know-It-Alls”
Oh you well-read and knowledgeable friend, can you not share your nuggets of wisdom with the rest of us? When you call us out on our walls and timelines, can you not be a bully about it? (Lest you get unfriended).
Seriously though, we appreciate your vast amounts of wisdom, but what is the point to all that knowledge if it isn’t shared and dispensed generously and humbly. They say, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” If you’ve had the privilege of being exposed or exposing yourself to certain cultures, tomes and experiences, wouldn’t you want other people to enjoy the same knowledge you relish? Questions will be asked and you may be grilled in ways that let you identify gaps in your own information bank. Questions that can spur you to learn even more about what you thought you understood; questions that will help you appreciate how vast and infinite knowledge is.
After all wasn’t it the great philosopher Socrates who said, “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
We are students for life and the moment we approach life through the prism of a genuine hunger for knowledge and wisdom, we will overcome the fear of being wrong. And, subsequently, overcoming that fear will give us the confidence to be authentic, to create and to truly express ourselves wherever we choose.