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  • Writer's pictureJL Nash

A Millennial question — where is the fact checker now?

I’ve spent the past three weeks in the company of a 23-year-old. Nearly every waking moment of every waking hour. Being 50 and childless, it has been interesting to see how my niece has grown into an adult in my absence but now is enjoying, I hope, my company.  I have noticed one thing about her in particular and this is the need for constant stimulation.  If the room is quiet, the TV is turned on even as background noise. When she’s not watching TV or experiencing something directly, she is glued to her phone, playing games or watching anime or other tv series. Quiet times are punctuated with the sound of her voice. Although this might sound like a complaint, it is not. It is simply an observation.

I remember empty times in my mid-twenties where I was able to spend time alone. No distractions, either on top of hills, by rivers, exploring cities or in my own home, I daydreamed and found activities to occupy myself. I drew, I played music, wrote, read. I kept myself busy in creative ways.   I developed interests.

On reflection, this 23-year-old has done exactly that, developed interests, the difference being noncreative — TV and social media. What will be her life in years to come? What foundation is she laying down for a well balanced human being who can navigate relationships when the only ones she seems to negotiate are fictional or virtual?

On one particular day, I mention travel and her eyes glaze over. I’d love to go to Tokyo, she says. She has read about it and watched programs on it. Later she muses on Mexico City and the Frida Kahlo museum and I realise I have been mistaken. She’s not just living a virtual life, she’s on a drip-feed of information through her phone. Anything I talk about which she doesn’t understand or know, I see her searching for it on the net. Her knowledge may be virtual, but it’s still knowledge.

I discover she collects art. It may not be Braque or Dali, but it’s modern, and something I don’t understand. I take her to an art gallery and she soaks it up along with the virtual information she downloads — she ends up knowing more about the exhibition and the artist than I do, but she can’t make a decision on which is the best piece.  Now, I love my phone, the internet, the accessible information and I realise I’m not using it to its full potential so I decide to copy her and whenever she looks something up — so do I. After a week, I admit I have amassed more facts (which I have had to fact check) but I haven’t used the one thing I realise I rely on more than anything. Intuition.

Thanks to this millennial, I have discovered something I never thought I could say about myself.  I like to take a leap into the unknown. Knowing the plot of a movie might show me whether I might like it but ruins the excitement which comes from the expectation of the unknown.  I don’t want to know the plot twist in a murder mystery before I watch the film or read the book. I want to be tempted by a trailer and teased by good editing.

Furthermore, I want to trust my intuition when it comes to meeting someone — I don’t need to stalk them on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter before I get to know them. The virtual world shows us what someone else wants us to see of them.  People’s profiles are positive, not flawed and balanced like actual humans. I want to judge someone on how I interpret their attitude toward me, I want to see them, hear them, watch them and even smell them.  Intuition — is it the culmination of my experiences which help me make decisions based on something unseen and immeasurable?

Intuition is all I have when I have no fact-checker to hand or history to gobble up and spit back out.  I used it when I decided on the dates I went on when I was single. I used it when I met potential bosses at job interviews. I used it to decide on whether it was safe or not to continue with specific situations in specific locations. Intuition taught me to talk to my attacker and to fight back when I could win, and probably saved my life.  Intuition facilitated me giving someone a second chance when no one else did, and that person has never since trashed my values.

I’ve tried but I can’t find intuition online, not beyond its meaning anyway. I love the anticipation which comes with the leap of faith involved in following my intuition, that gut feeling which precedes the decision. No conscious thought or perceived conscious involvement.

John Kappas PhD. In his Theory of Mind, declared that 12 percent of the mind is devoted to conscious thought, thus 88 percent is devoted to subconscious thought. The part of reasoning that is ancient and instinctive. The part of mind which amongst other things, harbours, memory, emotion, regulation of the different systems of the body and importantly, the fight or flight instinct. Intuition relies on instinct which comes from our  subconscious ‘mind.’  Is this instinct genetic or cultivated? I am of the mind that it is both.

So back to my young companion of the past 21 days. How will she develop intuition without direct, first-person experiences or does she have enough genetic instinct to help? Will her vacuuming of facts, not always fact-checked, give her the appropriate skills to develop and what if her genetics lack the blueprint I have? Am I being closed minded and negative about her generation’s ability to flourish with the same skills and talents my generation has enjoyed? Will her decision-making always be driven by the access she has to facts and involve conscious reasoning? I hope not. Even though she may make mistakes and her intuition might be off from time to time, even though her instinct may need to be developed, I dream of a time and circumstance where she will be able to react to the world without conscious thought and enjoy the anticipation and positive sense of self which come with relying on intuition.

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