The Fallacy of Extremism

Extremism is on the rise, because only extreme ideas cut through the noise of the Internet. Common sense wisdom gets lost in that noise. Extremism is a product of mental laziness. It not only hurts communities and nations, it also hurts individuals, even the most sensible ones. At this moment, you might have strong convictions without even realizing them and they might be holding you back.

Context

Back in the day, we had relatively few publishers and mainstream media, run by relatively sensible people. What they published was boring, but most of it was the common sense middle way. No one dared to say anything extreme. Saying something extreme meant being branded as an extremist and losing all of your publication venues.

The Internet changed everything. Now every laptop, tablet, and smartphone is a media company. People can publish whatever they want and they do it. In this overcrowded space, only extreme ideas stand out. People don’t follow the leaders with the most sensible ideas. They follow the “influencers” with the most radical ideas or the online marketers with the Lamborghinis, private planes, and helicopters.

How It All Applies to You

The ticket to make a quick buck or get the office seems to find the most extreme version of an idea and publish as much as possible about it on social media. If you want to live a good life though, don’t follow that advice, because as we all know, life isn’t about extreme ideas. Life is about balance and finding that sensible middle way, that sweet spot that produces the most results. It’s not about working for 18 hours a day, 365 days a year. However, you will find a lot of “influencers” online that say that to stand out on social media.

Extremes almost never work. People fall into the fallacy of extremism, because they like to think their options are binary. That makes their decision process easy. In the past, I oscillated between drinking no coffee at all or drinking a lot of it. I oscillated between switching off the heating at night or letting it at the same temperature as day. I spent either at least an hour a day on social media or did not check it at all. I either didn’t work out at all or worked out twice a day. There were times I didn’t listen to any music at all while working or I listened to heavy metal.

None of the extremes above worked for me. Even though I liked the idea of having extreme decisions and the false sense of pride they gave me, I stopped acting on those decisions after a while. I realized that the sweet spots between those extremes worked better for me. Now, I drink two cups of coffee in the morning, check what’s going on in my friends circle once a day on social media, listen to Baroque music while working, work out four times a week, and turn down the heating a few degrees at night. These are the sweet spots that work for me, among many others.

Call to Action

I invite you to take a good look at your life and see the decisions and choices you have to make. What are your options? If you happen to find only two extreme options, remember that most of the time there are more options in between them. Those are the sweet spots that might work the best for you and for the situation that you find yourself in.

Moreover, I invite you to take a good critical look at all the information that you receive from social media. If the information seems to be extreme, take it with a grain of salt and look at the motivation of the people behind the information. You might see that they are trying to market a product or to promote their agenda.

Remember, the truth, what works the best, is most of the time somewhere between the extremes. Those sweet spots might be a little harder to find compared to sticking with the extremes, but at the end of the day, those are the ones that produce the best results.

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.