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POULSEN: Pseudo wisdom attacks social media

Image Credit: Chuck Poulsen
January 14, 2016 - 8:29 AM

"We teach people how to treat us." - famous psychologist, Dr. Phil.

"Everyone is here because he or she has a place to fill, and every piece must fit into the big jigsaw puzzle."- famous philosopher, Deepak Chopra.

"Where friends become neighbours." - famous beermaker, Budweiser.

"We generate the results in life we believe we deserve." - famous TV personality, Oprah.

"Sunny ways my friends, sunny ways." - famous prime minister, Justin.

There are a million of them, these pseudo-profound bafflegabs that grab hearts and leave minds with nothing to do.

They used to be bumper sticker wisdom. There weren't enough bumpers for the expansive supply of nonsense so along came Facebook and other social media to blow open the possibilities to an infinity of mush, as well as life blood for the lucrative self help industry.

One more stuporous beauty from Chopra that would be shameful to ignore: "By evolving, we exist."

Got it?

A study last year undertaken by the University of Waterloo in Ontario was titled "On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullshit."

Waterloo's researchers asked 300 university undergrads to evaluate a series of statements that were syntactically correct but full of buzzwords and empty of logic.

Stated the Waterloo report: "Those more receptive to bullshit are less reflective, lower in cognitive ability (i.e., verbal and fluid intelligence, numeracy), are more prone to ontological confusions and conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine."

Their next research project might explore the personalities of academics who are obsessed with elitist language, but that's another story.

In addition to pedlling mental pablum, social media also brings us countless false quotes and conspiracy theories.

Snopes.com is a site that debunks these myths and allows you to avoid making a fool of yourself by forwarding them. I bookmarked Snopes after making such a fool of myself.

Here are a few of the myths Snopes have uncovered recently:

* Social media reporting of the Waterloo report said it labelled the guilty subjects as "dumb" and "idiots." It did not.

* Relax your Big Brother meter. Facebook isn't claiming copyright to the personal information, photographs, and other material that their users are posting to the social network. Facebook doesn't own your media and never said it did.

* Apple co-founder Steve Jobs did not leave behind a deathbed warning about how the "non-stop pursuit of wealth will only turn a person into a twisted being, just like me."

* A study undertaken by the World Health Organization concluded that natural blondes are likely to be extinct within 200 years. Nope.

* If you've been watching the murderous carnage on the popular TV series Fargo, you'll know it starts out with a promise that "This is a true story." What you probably missed is this disclaimer in the final credits: "The persons and events portrayed in this production are fictitious. No similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is intended or should be inferred."

* No, a study didn't prove doctors are more deadly than guns.

* Bill Cosby's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame has not been removed, nor are there such plans.

* When the U.S. Powerball jackpot was at $1.3 billion, it was widely repeated that if the money was shared with every American, each would get $4.1 million. The correct figure is $4.02.

The chances of winning the jackpot, drawn again last night, is the same as tossing a coin and getting heads 28 straight times. Canadians have been driving over the border to line up for tickets, some spending thousands. Try getting past four consecutive coin flips of heads. Your thumb will get tired and you'll give up.

It's confounding.

Let's wait for Chopra to explain it.

— Chuck Poulsen can be reached at poulsenc30@hotmail.com

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016
InfoTel News Ltd

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