We are much worse at thinking than we think. At least, that’s what the American essayist and academic Mr Alan Jacobs thinks. According to his book How To Think, Mr Jacobs believes that if we can learn how to think better (and better understand how others think), we can change how we interact with the world around us. Especially in our digital age of instant gratification, this kind of “thinking about thinking” is not easy; the mind lazily jumps to conclusions, and doesn’t want to be forced to walk outside of the paths it has trodden for itself. But, it turns out, confronting the ways you think could change your life, and potentially the world. Speaking to us from Waco, Texas, Mr Jacobs told us more about his book, and we distilled our conversation into a checklist of ideas that will put you on the right path to becoming a more enlightened thinker.
“Thinking slowly is something that all of us need to do, but I feel that it’s especially important given a social media environment in which the currency of social media is response, to like or to retweet or to save or to respond,” says Mr Jacobs. “Our very first responses aren’t often the most reliable ones. We’ve all been in that situation online when someone posts something that you think is outrageous and unjustifiable, and then 30 minutes later you find out that the story isn’t quite what you thought it was. Give a few minutes of reflection before you decide to respond. When you respond instantaneously, you can add heat, but you can rarely add light. You’re not illuminating the situation; you’re just fanning the fires. It doesn’t do too much for our social order, and it doesn’t do too much for your blood pressure either.”