A new year brings us a host of things we resolve to do more of, do less of, start doing or stop doing. Despite our best intentions, various studies show that anywhere from 75% to 92% of New Year’s resolutions go unfulfilled. Most of these goals fail not because the people making them are lazy (though that’s certainly why some of them fail) but because the goals are too large, too complicated or not tangible.
In the spirit of the new year and of making resolutions that are easy and fun to keep, here are ten skeptical resolutions I’m making. Some are things I’m already doing and want to keep doing, and others are behaviors I’d like to change. And I encourage everyone to do these along with me, for the good of skepticism and our mental health.
1. I resolve not to forward, share or re-tweet any article or blog post I haven’t read. It’s tempting not to read things all the way to the end, and most of us do it. But if you haven’t read something all the way through, why would you expect me to read it?
2. I resolve not to pass around any story I HAVE read that doesn’t feel real, or that I learn to be fake after looking into it. That includes obviously satirical pieces posing as actual news, most of which aren’t that funny anyway.
3. I resolve not to compare people who disagree with me to Nazis or Hitler. Lumping people who voted for the other guy, various government agencies or people who work for banks together with the most evil people in history is demeaning to pretty much everyone involved, and ludicrously hyperbolic.
4. I resolve never to use the phrases “wake up” or “open your eyes” or to call anyone a sheeple, psychopath, eugenicist or paid shill. It’s time to move past these hackneyed clichés, or at least find new hackneyed clichés.
5. I resolve not to demand others “do their research” if I haven’t done my own, nor will I do so if I’m not interested in what they discover. A person who demands proof then won’t accept it when offered is a crackpot.
6. I resolve not to engage with trolls on Twitter, Facebook or message boards. I also resolve to be okay with the fact that there’s no way I’m going to be able to keep this.
7. I resolve not to use well-known quotations that weren’t actually said by the people commonly thought to have said them. Remember what Abraham Lincoln said: “73% of all internet quotes are fake.”
8. I resolve to actively debunk sources that practice bad science and those that exist mostly to either make you afraid or sell you useless junk. Often these are the same places, which is convenient.
9. I resolve not to blame things I don’t understand or that can’t be easily explained on easy, publicly-disliked targets like GMO’s, Monsanto, fracking or nuclear power.
10. I resolve to continue disproving conspiracy theories, despite believers only folding proof against the conspiracy into the conspiracy itself. It’s maddening, but it has to be done.
Happy and safe New Year to all, and here’s to more skeptical goodness in 2014.