The problem with generic advice

I always feel that there’s something wrong about how we consume the information we read online. We immediately believe what we read because the so-called ‘experts write it.’ It’s evident when we google our health problems. For example, if we search what a mild headache and fever mean, we know the top results will either be a brain tumor or brain cancer. The moment we see those names, we become numb, start panicking, and begin to question our whole existence. Sigh.

What I don’t like about the information we consume online is the extreme generalization of solutions to a given problem. To understand this better, let me begin with some examples. These are some popular questions that display thousands of articles in the results.

  • How to lose weight in 15 days?
  • How to get over a breakup?
  • How to know if he/she likes you?
  • What should I do to start a side hustle?
  • How to create a million-dollar company?

And the list goes on.

Let’s take “How to lose weight in 15 days.”

The author of the article you’re reading has no clue about what you look like, your food habits, your health conditions, allergies, psychological conditions you grew up in, what motivates you and what doesn’t, etc. And their suggestions to lose weight will go on as “cut your sugar intake, cut back on meat, pump up the protein, drink green tea,” etc. While this advice makes sense, it’s still a generic one.

The problem with generic advice is it fails to accommodate the endless nuances of reality. In other words, it lacks the context of your situation. It’s not specific toyour problem.’

It’s like going to your boss who has no clue about your love life to ask for help on your relationship. You’d never do such a thing because you know, their advice isn’t going to help. Or imagine taking Phoebe’s advice of performing the cleansing ritual to end the bad boyfriend cycle. It’s as if a nice boyfriend is going to appear out of nowhere right after you burn all the things that belong to your ex. It’s crazy.

The bad effect of having so much generic, good-sounding advice out there is that people have stopped thinking for themselves.

Adora Cheung

Before we blindly follow someone’s suggestion, be it on the internet or in real life, it’s imperative to know, what has worked for others might not necessarily work for us. It’s essential to consider the following questions before deciding if you should take someone’s advice sincerely or not.

  • Have they been in a similar situation before?
  • Do they know me well enough to offer this advice?
  • If not, are they trying to understand my point of view before they draw a conclusion?

So the next time you hear someone telling you what you should do with your life or how to deal with a problem, learn to know where to draw the line. Also, if a friend is looking for help, ask yourself if you know the person and their situation well enough before adding your two cents. 🤡

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