Letters from the dorm: The importance of thinking for yourself

By Elaine Leung, Durham University, UK
By Elaine Leung, Durham University, UK |

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In an age when the internet is bombarding us with more information than ever before, it is very easy to conform to the mainstream views and lose one's individuality if we aren't careful.

Of course, the internet can be a saviour when it comes to finding out how to make scrambled eggs or the involvement of Lenin in the first world war. However, it seems to have recently become an intellectual prison, where we started forming our opinions mainly based on other people's views on social networking websites.

One of the things a university education has taught me is to think in broader terms - not only about my own perspective, but also why people of opposing views would think that way. It surprises me how much easier it is to take the shorter route and go with the flow without thinking through the issues ourselves. By limiting our views to one-sided opinions by others on social networking websites, we are really just staying in the comfort zone and being reluctant to find out about the issues ourselves. You might argue: "I don't have the time." If the issue matters to you, make the time.

With some encouragement from my peers and a professor, I have recently started reading a lot of primary literature (writings based on original research), such as Adam Smith's An Inquiry Into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, on top of reading the core textbooks for my course. I feel that reading primary literature enables me to think more individually and learn how to express my personal views - views that have not been polluted by secondary literature. I also feel powerful if I can decide my own stance for myself and not let others decide it for me. Isn't this the point of education?

I respect those with opinions, but I have more respect for those who try to find the truth and never limit themselves to opinions that have previously been formed. It's important to appreciate the division of opinions and follow your own path rather than let others force their opinions on you.