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How To Read An Article On The Internet

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You are in charge of how you read

Please, please do not read something like you are shopping at the ‘As Is’ section at Ikea and accept whatever is in front of you. Reading is an assembly project! You aren’t stuck with whatever is on the page in front of you. Run it through your brain and see how it feels. React to it. Compare it to your lived experience and what you have read about the lived experience of others. Think about which parts of what you are reading that you accept, and which parts you reject. Nothing is wholesale! You can find a nugget of wisdom in anything, you can find a revered thinker who is full of shit sometimes.

Understand what kind of information you are reading

One of the scariest comments I read all the time across different platforms (but especially on Thought Catalog) is “you call this journalism?”

No.

No one has called any of this journalism.

But there are people who think everything on the internet is intended to be journalism. They go into reading anything as if the intent of that writing is altruistic, created primarily to inform the reader. They do this when the more obvious intent is to entertain them which is the intent of every for-profit site on the internet, even those that brand themselves as if they are doing journalism (though at this level, I understand the distinction is more difficult). Probably most of what you read is not journalism. This is a frightening misunderstanding of how to think about the information you are consuming.

Take what you need and leave the rest

When you read something, you are the customer and you can be as picky as you want. If someone is writing about anxiety, even if they are making blanket statements about anxiety — you can still reject it. That’s an expected and welcome part of reading. It doesn’t necessarily discredit the writer it just means we all acknowledge that there are as many ways to experience something as there are human beings who experience it.

Writers use generalizations because readers prefer generalizations so they can see themselves in the writing — and because it’s exhausting to be constantly qualifying “BUT THIS IS JUST MY EXPERIENCE”, so it saves time, too. Just because someone uses a generalization, doesn’t mean they think the generalization is always true all the time. Generalizations are handy, but we all know they aren’t perfect.

Everyone is a human being, treat everyone like they are a human being

It really doesn’t matter what you read, the impulse to hunt the writer down and yell at them is stupid and bad. If the writer is trolling you on purpose, you are experiencing negative emotions for no personal benefit — you are drinking poison and expecting them to die. If you think the writer made an earnest mistake, pointing it out is welcome and great. If you hate something you read, rant about it to your friends. Not really sure what you get from that, but you’re welcome to do it. But the minute you email or @ a writer to put them down, you’re doing something wrong and your hurt feelings don’t excuse your bad behavior.

A good rule of thumb is just to treat everyone like they are a human being. TC mark

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