When faced with a life problem or a dilemma, what do you typically do? Do you consult your own guiding principles and values? Perhaps you seek advice from someone you know is wise and knowledgeable? Most likely, you Google the answer. “What do I do if my girlfriend is cheating on me?” “What do I do if I’m unpopular?” “If there’s something I know is the right thing to do but I know other people won’t understand and my reputation will suffer, what should I do?” “Should I cut off a toxic friend or family member?”
You Google, then, at best, you triangulate an answer from the consensus of the crowd. At worst, you seek out an answer that confirms your preconceived base instinctual reaction. This is a terrible way to arrive at the correct answers for your life and I think it’s one of the key reasons why modern humans are so unhappy. They outsource their decisionmaking to a crowd-consensus that comes from an uninformed crowd that has no more insight than you, just the arrogance and confidence that comes from not having to live with the repercussions of the decision.
Everything boils down to a formula. “What do I do if my girlfriend is cheating on me?” “Dump her.” Usually yes, but it’s not always that simple. “What do I do if I’m unpopular?” “Do nice things for people and be cooler.” Doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes people just hate you. Don’t understand you. Fundamentally hate who you are as a person and sometimes it’s not your fault and it doesn’t matter how nice you are. “Should I cut off a toxic friend or family member?” “Absolutely. You’ve gotta get that self-care.” The crowd doesn’t know. In fact, they know less than you do. They don’t know the details. They don’t know the nuances. And they sometimes have the audacity to be offended if their uninformed advice isn’t accepted.
This is why guiding principles are important. “What do I do if my girlfriend is cheating on me?” Well, I believe in standing up for myself and setting firm boundaries. Therefore, I should distance myself from this relationship. Or, perhaps, I believe in understanding the situation and I should take a look at what circumstances caused this to happen; is it understandable, is she repentant, etc. The fact is that with guiding principles you know what your capacity for giving up on people is, understanding others, how much abuse you’re willing to tolerate. You can make a decision consistent with who you are and who you want to be as a person.
If you allow crowd consensus to make your decisions, inevitably you’re externalizing the responsibility for that decision. You don’t know which way to go, so you accept what the crowd agrees on so you’re not judged for your decision and if it has a terrible outcome you can shift the blame to the crowd who made the decision on your behalf. And you know what they’ll say if you blame them? “You didn’t have to listen to us. It’s your life.” In a way, it is not as much seeking council as it is running it by a committee of peer pressure. It’s getting social permission.
No matter what you believe, if you have a moral code, or guiding principles, you can have a moral backbone to make your own decisions. Imagine you were the President of the United States. You wouldn’t be able to Google, “Should I go to war?” You have to take the information available and understand the nuances and decide between multiple different but perhaps equally bad outcomes and pick what you’ll do.
Google is your crutch and it will tell you the right thing many, many times since so much knowledge is available, but when it comes to difficult personal and moral dilemmas, you should ensure that you have a code or guiding principles, whatever those may be, so the peer pressure of the crowd doesn’t sway you into making the wrong decision. You should maintain the final say, and you should take responsibility for your decision and try to make decisions that are consistent with who you want to be as a person by making decisions that follow a moral code that you adhere to.
Just my opinion.