The Future of Critical Thinking

After taking this class, my view of popular culture has changed dramatically. It’s strange to say, but there are many aspects of popular culture that I never would have given much thought to if it wasn’t for this class. I used to be the kind of person that would just take everything for what it appeared to be, but over the last couple of years I’ve tended to be a more skeptical individual. This class has only reinforced that ability. For starters, advertisements used to just be noise in the background that annoyed me, in all honesty, but now I find it to be entertaining to evaluate them with a critical eye. Observing their methods of connecting with an audience and evaluating it’s effectiveness. To name a few appeal techniques; humor, love, family, self identification, adventure, etc. These are all tools used to catch a viewers attention, connect with them, and really drive the audience to want that specific product or brand. What is most fascinating to me is that I never thought I’d fall victim to these techniques, but when I reevaluate myself, and look closely at my reactions, there have been plenty of times where I found myself impacted by a Subaru commercial that shows a family together and happy, because it reminded me of my own family. In many cases, it’s that sort of thing that should be evaluated critically. Although I would love to think Subaru actually cares about family values, when I evaluate it critically I know they just want people to think they do so they will buy their brand instead of a Honda, or Lexus.

To bring this home a little closer to pop culture in my own life, the music industry is an entity I will observe more critically. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why so much crappy music was being produced. Or why so many people listened to it at all. After taking a closer look, and even going so far as to do some research I found that many of the Pop artists these days don’t have many options. They get signed on with a major labeling company under contract that dictates what they have to perform, when, where, with who, and they basically have a lot of their creative freedom stripped away. For example, I watched a documentary on Katy Perry. Before she got signed on she was interviewed by a recording company. The director said that her music was very poetic and heartfelt, but that that wasn’t something that would sell. Right then and there I realized that the music industry isn’t all that it is cracked up to be. It’s restricting based on the companies interest in making money. What bothers me about that though is that people are interested in heartfelt and poetic music. People relate to that more than just regurgitated nonsense. Another example is with Blink-182, a 90’s Punk Rock/Pop Punk band. After Blink reunited after a few years of separation, they decided to publish an album on their own dime. They were no longer signed with a record company. In an interview the band members Tom Delonge and Mark Hoppus both explained that it was difficult without the support of a record company, but in so many ways it was rewarding to have all the freedom they wanted to be fully creative with the music. What these two examples do for me is help me see behind the front of the music industry and evaluate critically the image placed by the companies for the masses to see.

Another aspect of popular culture that I will definitely look at more critically is the internet and social media. With the internet, just about anything goes. Not only is it important to be able to use the internet for fun, but being able to know how to use it safely in a recreational manner, but academically as well. Academically, it is crucial that people know how to find and use credible sources. I can’t stress the credibility enough. Many people don’t consider the possibility that their sources may not actually be credible, accurate, or even real. This class definitely helped me know how to find sources, check their credibility, and look for signs that show a source may not be a good one. For example, simply knowing the difference between certain URL addresses can save a researcher a tremendous amount of time. Dot Coms can be created by anyone, which means the information used is automatically more questionable than something coming from the Library of Congress Dot Gov. Furthermore, buying things on the internet can be some sketchy business. The first thing one should look for is credible contact information. It’s probably a good idea to call a company and ask them about the product you want to buy before you go ahead and put your personal information into the check out section of the webpage. This goes for most companies that aren’t widely known or accepted, unlike Amazon, Walmart, Barns and Noble, etc. This is important because it is really easy to be tricked into having your personal information stolen or abused.

In terms of social media, this is something almost everyone uses in some way shape or form. Believe it or not, e-mails used to be considered social media at one point in time. Now with mass used sites like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram,, Soundcloud, Youtube, etc, people are constantly connecting, sharing, posting, and viewing everything everyone ever places on the internet. What this means is that we should be selective and somewhat reserved with what we post. Many people out there can and will use information against you, or find ways to hack into your computer and set a virus or steal personal information. Now granted, many of these sites do their best to prevent such activity, but it is something everyone should be more aware about and have concern for. This class has helped me reevaluate the content I desire to share.

Most importantly, all of this talk about pop culture takes me right back to the concept of consumerism. It is more clear to me now after taking this class that basically all of our pop culture is derived form consumerism. Every product I like to buy, whether it be clothing, music equipment, apps for my phone, car parts, skateboard/snowboard gear, culinary supplies, food, gifts, destinations I want to visit, and even colleges I’m interested in all revolves around revenue generating businesses. What this means is that everything I see, touch, breath on, or buy is luring me to spend money. What this class has helped me do is question my own motives for why I want to buy a specific product. To critically thing about why I feel a certain devotion to brand names, and that perhaps I may start consuming based on something more tangible like the quality of a product over buying the name of a product. In turn, finding valid reasons for my preferences. With this, I truly believe I will be happier with what I consume because I made a choice based on my own likes and dislikes rather than what a company tells me I should like or dislike.

I leave you with this. It has been a fun semester, and I hope that everyone will share these techniques of critical thinking with other people that aren’t enrolled in this class and challenge them to take a step back, observe their surroundings, evaluate what they are being handed, think critically about the decisions they make, and question their devotion to specific products.


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