Beware Of Secondary Sources
June 4, 2021
We all perceive and experience the world around us through our five senses. Of the five senses, three of them are innocent, while two of them can be sneaky.
When I touch something, I feel it. It is a real experience. The sense of touching something is true, and there is nothing insidious about it.
Similarly, when I smell something or taste something, it is a direct experience and real. There is nothing duplicitous about it.
But with the last two senses, things get complicated.
When I see something or someone, it is a real experience. When I see a person, nature, or something, it is direct visual input. There is no confusion about the reality here. But, when I see and image of something, the sensory input is not real. It is indirect and merely representative of something else, about which we have no idea.
So, when I see a photo of a friend holidaying in the Maldives on Instagram or Facebook, it is not the same as seeing this friend being physically present with him or her in the Maldives. The photo I see is a secondary source and does not represent the actual reality. It is likely photoshopped and curated. Reading or seeing news is also the same. Our mind is not seeing anything first hand. It is just the visual representation of someone else’s first-hand experience possibly.
This same issue crops up with our sense of hearing too. When I see a bell ring or a dog bark, or a musician play an instrument live, the experience is first hand and real. However, when I listen to the dialogues in a movie or music on a tape or a friend telling me something about someone, the experience of listening to the sound may be first-hand, but the content is second-hand. It is completely curated for creating a certain emotional impact.
Don’t Believe Everything You See Or Hear
As I contemplate this idea, there seems to be an interesting mental model here.
Anything that we experience first hand, we don’t have to try and filter the inputs by bringing in our intelligence. However, we should definitely apply some strong filters for anything coming at us through secondary sources and not let the information influence our thinking or beliefs.
So, someone sends you a WhatsApp forward of some videos, or someone comes and tells you something they heard from someone- Beware. It is not representing any form of truth. It is just some information coming to you. If the message is positive, you don’t have to filter it. You can consume the information as is. But if it is negative and gossipy, block it out and don’t get influenced.
Beware of secondary sources.