Quit your complaining

If there is one thing that we can promote about university education, it’s the fact we are taught to be “critical thinkers.” In job interviews, discussions with concerned relatives and any other situation where we’re reduced to grasping at our defences, critical thinking manages to come up in one form or another.
It makes perfect sense. Without the skills to deduce key theories from ancient philosophical texts and apply them to modern media, women’s rights or political structure, we would apparently not survive.

However, next time you sit down with a group of people, stop to observe the topics of conversation. Who knew that critical thinking equals complaining? We are excellent at analyzing issues. It seems to be the common thread that binds us; simply watching a television program turns into a contest of who can spot the biggest flaw.

We are not willing to accept anything as it appears, or we will not accept any explanation except the most critical. An outrageous celebrity statement must be traceable to drugs, an unseasonably warm day shrugged off to global warming. Political unrest in the Middle East? Figures.

We search for negativity, convincing ourselves that negative fates are deserved and anything uplifting must be temporary or a joke.

Let me make it clear that I am not advocating a life of ignorant, complaint-free bliss. We have strong convictions and why shouldn’t we voice our opinions? We live in a country that will not persecute us for raising our voices about issues, something that we should fully appreciate.

We can talk politics, gender equality and find humour in a child lobbying for “more cookies for kids” at the G8 summit in Huntsville. We idolize satirists and comedians who can call out the leading figures in the ridiculous spectacle we live in.

What I do wish to call attention to is complaining for the sake of complaining. Perhaps it is aided by social media — we can instantly share our opinions (in 140 characters or less) to those following us through Twitter. We can post a link on Facebook of a ridiculous statement made by anyone from Charlie Sheen to Stephen Harper or whoever may be in the cultural spotlight and then proceed to find fault in every aspect of their being.

We have no problem anonymously posting accusatory statements on online discussion boards, which may turn out to be the perfect medium for our generation. An argument posted without an author to blame, just another criticism offered by a faceless, untraceable voice that others can feed off of. We want our opinions to be heard and if others cannot trace it back to us, we have the freedom to be increasingly harsh.

Internet posts are read, dismissed and replaced so quickly that there is not nearly enough time to evaluate arguments made before they are replaced with haphazardly formed responses.

I see the problem resting in research and accountability. We can make statements in the seconds it takes to type or text message a few words, without considering the full background story. We easily dismiss information as characteristic of an individual’s usual behaviour.

In psychology it is known as the fundamental attribution error: we tear people apart, because any hardness that has befallen them must be due to individual factors and not environmental or background causes.

In today’s society, critical thinking is an invaluable tool. Without it we would be swallowed by the barrage of conflicting messages we receive every day. Complain all you want, but validate your arguments and treat each post as representative.

With all that being said, let the onslaught of criticism begin.