You say that online, “critical ignoring” is just as important as critical thinking. What do you mean by that?
I’m all in favor of critical thinking and deep reading, but assessing online content requires different skills. You’re not necessarily going to get to the bottom of an unfamiliar website and learn who might really be behind it by spending a lot of time on it, examining it in detail. You need to leave that site and search the broader web for context.
Close reading and critical thinking also require sustained, focused attention, which is a limited resource in our attention economy. Attention is the brain’s high-octane fuel, and we need to be discerning about how and when we use it. If you’re a cyclist in a big race, it’s great to pedal fast, but you also want to pace yourself, reduce resistance from the wind, maximize your strokes. You want to conserve your energy for when you really need it.
The same principle holds true when it comes to the information that comes across our screens. Expending attention on dubious sources is a colossal waste of time and energy. It can also be dangerous, exhausting your mind for important tasks and warping your perspective. Critical ignoring can keep you from squandering your attention on digital scams.
So in cases where something is worth your attention, how do you go about maximizing your effort?
First, don’t spend more than a minute on an unfamiliar website. Don’t try to evaluate it by relying on what it says about itself on its “About” page. Get off the page, and do a search on the name of whatever you’re investigating – a person, an organization, a company – to see what the rest of the web has to say. Then, resist the temptation to click the first thing that catches your eye. Take in the full set of results to get a sense of the sources.
In other words, use the web to check the web. The internet is a galaxy of electronically linked resources. If I showed you only one strand of a spider’s web, you’d have no idea what it looks like or how it works. The way you understand a single node in a network is to understand its relationship to other nodes.