.... from beyond paranormal research.
As you can see, I have taken a step back from the Corner. I'm no longer actively involved in paranormal investigations and research, partly because of major life changes and partly because more than a decade after the most popular ghost hunting show declared that orbs are not ghosts, a lot people still believe they are. At some point, one can get tired of shouting into the wind. Luckily, there are still great researchers out there, using science and critical thinking to provide rational explanations, whenever possible, and debunking fraud. I applaud them for continuing to fight the good fight. For example, check out Skeptical Inquirer Magazine. https://skepticalinquirer.org. 2020 has shown there is a great lack of critical thinking, scientific literacy and media literacy in our more divided society .
The amount of misinformation and conspiracy theories regarding the COVID-19 virus and the election was staggering and had detrimental consequences. And the fact that the director of the National Health Institute said that science and data at the NIH and Center on Disease Control concerning COVID were manipulated by the former White House administration based on policy, is frightening. How quickly baseless claims were spread like wildfire online, adding to the confusion in an already uneasy time was not only scary, but dangerous. Some were even shared by people I know who work in health care! It has been particularly disheartening for those of us who promote reason and logic. By the way, here is a list of COVID myths debunked by the Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/featured-topic/11-covid-19-myths-debunked.
One of the main problems in paranormal research has been where many enthusiasts get their information from. We've seen fake or misleading credentials, people being described as "experts" without any qualifications, para-celebs, ghost hunting tv shows, etc. all sharing anything ranging from opinions, to misleading information, to outright falsehoods within the paranormal community. It has lead to inexperienced ghost hunting teams sharing these as "facts" to clients, spilling into the general community. This is what lead to me to start this blog in the first place.
Another common problem in paranormal research is when enthusiasts are confronted with facts that go agains their beliefs or agenda, instead of being open to learning, they instead become defensive and go into attack mode. They troll social media pages and groups, trying desperately to discredit anything that challenges their opinions. Some people have gone so far down the rabbit hole that you can throw them a rope made of gold and they still won't grasp it. Sound familiar? That's because the same behavior is seen in pretty much any topic these days.
One question asked repeatedly after the election was how have we become so divided? How is it that those on the right and those on the left have such opposing views on the same topics? A documentary on Netflix called "The Social Delimna" suggested, in part, we've become so polarized based on the social media content we are exposed to, based on algorithms instead of chance. When we consistently see mostly only one viewpoint, we can become more prone to be biased. And, when information is presented in a way to ignite emotion over reason, as we see in certain media outlets, it becomes even more difficult to keep the bias at bay.
As a former teacher, when students were assigned to write reports and had them vet and fact-check their sources, it was meant to be a life skill, not just for a grade on a paper. Yet, I often see people I know share posts without first checking if there was any truth to them or where they came from. When I have made pleas to people to do some fact-checking before sharing, another problem surfaced: I'm asked, "Who is checking the fact-checkers"? A deliberate mistrust in legitimate news sources has been planted, making it even more difficult to have reasonable and constructive dialogues. But, it is understandable, because many major news outlets are biased. And, some people have trouble distinguishing between authentic news, opinion, and flat-out propaganda.
Recently a project called MAP (Make America Purple) was launched by Commune, an online community whose mission is to promote wellness. (They offered some free courses on meditation and stress during the pandemic, which was helpful for yours truly.) The idea behind MAP is that people from who identify as liberal or conservative are matched up with those from the "opposing" side for open, honest dialogue in order to find some common ground and bridge the political divide in our society. Unfortunately, right off the bat, I saw some people base their opinions on misinformation, and could not be persuaded that their "facts"have no merit, even when presented with evidence. (Sounds familiar, if you've ever participated in paranormal discussions, especially online.) So the problem isn't just misinformation, it's the inability to, and unwillingness to seek out accurate information. We live in a time where major news sources now have a fact-checking section to fight misinformation. One journalist I follow regularly said we got to our current state by ignorance and apathy. I can't agree more.
Is there hope? This week marks Media Literacy Week (yes, it's a thing). The News Literacy Project and The E.W. Scripps Company are teaming up to launch a national public awareness campaign to promote news literacy and the role of a free press in American democracy. Check out The News Literacy Project here. I'm a fan of the News Literacy Project, as they provide fact-checking tips and tools not just for the public, but lessons for teachers to share with students. Here's an example of a tip on how to have a productive conversation:
My own personal tip: when all else fails, walk away because you can't reason with the unreasonable. But like in the paranormal community, I encourage everyone to fact-check before they click "share" and be willing to speak up and speak out against fraud, lies, and misinformation. One tip we learned in our teacher credentialing program was the best way to teach (or get a message across) is with understanding, not criticism. Finally, wear a mask, wash your hands and stay safe, my fellow Corner Creepers.