“There are Experts Among Us!?”

Expertise can be in almost any subject under the sun.

There is a point in one’s life where you live long enough to become an expert in something. Expertise can be in almost any subject under the sun. You might be a self-described expert in golf, fishing, guitars, baking bread, sculpture and the list goes on. Honestly, I count myself an expert in a handful of subjects (don’t we all!) but I won’t bore you with the details. The question is what qualifies someone to be an expert? When questions like this come up, I turn to the Websters Dictionary (merriam-webster.com) They define an expert as “one with special skill or knowledge representing mastery of a particular subject.”

…Experts seem to come out of the woodwork.

Of course, we can almost predict that any situation that comes along in our life (personal or professional), experts seem to come out of the woodwork. Websites, bloggers, social media, TV news and others search the world for anyone and everyone who may be considered an expert. Some are true experts, spending years in their topic as a writer, researcher, scientist, speaker, author etc. Many of them have university degrees, even PhD’s, on a subject. They have the resume to back up what they say. Now, even the noted experts will admit that not everyone may agree with what they talk about. I am a person that keeps up with the news; locally, nationally and around the world. I have watched several news stories and wondered “oh boy, where did they get this expert?”

“Opinions are like belly buttons; we all have one.”

In the past month, our region, our nation and the world have been facing the Covid-19 Virus. It has touched every state in the USA and every county in North Carolina. This problem is apparently unequaled with any disease that has hit the world since the Spanish Flu in the early 1900’s. People are getting sick and dying all over the world. It has changed the way we live. I wonder if you have noticed that once the story broke, the experts came pouring in to advise all of us on the who, what, when, where and why of Covid-19. You may know the old saying “opinions are like belly buttons; we all have one.”

Here we are in the year 2020 and the rules of the game have changed again. Enter Social Media (especially Facebook) that has become the open microphone for anyone who can fog a mirror. Please understand, I believe in the first amendment and the right of free speech. The problem is that every so-called “expert” who can type on a laptop may not be qualified to give advice on something as serious as a pandemic virus. Here are just a few thoughts to consider when you see when you are seeking advice on Covid-19 or any other topic:

1. Get your information from qualified, credentialed, vetted and recognized news sources or experts. Your neighbor, your wife’s cousin or your co-worker may (or may not) have any knowledge on the topic. What they give you is their opinion or their personal view.

2. Do not preach to all of us on what is the right or wrong thing to do. You are entitled to your opinion, but we can decide for ourselves.

3. Do your research, ask questions, seek out the true experts. For example, many parents think they are experts in public schools. However, many fail to do the research or pick up the phone and call their child’s teacher. If you are doing your federal taxes, understand there are true EXPERTS in that area (CPA’s or accountants). Trying to fix your own car is a skill some people have but there are experts who know cars better than you.

4. Do not believe everything that you may read on social media or an internet search. A great deal of it is good but a great deal of it is not. Just be careful and check multiple sources.

The longer I have lived I am beginning to realize I am not an expert in all subjects. As a younger man in my 20’s or 30’s, I was quick to give my two cents on any topic (I still do!). Now I have tried to be a bit more humble and say to folks “you know, I am not sure I know much about that” or “I have no idea.” As a Chamber of Commerce manager, we are tasked to be experts in all subjects (yeah right!). I always say that we may not have the answer, but we will do our best to find it.

Finally, to all you experts out there, what expert advice do you give? Be careful, check your sources and earn that “expert badge.” Some folks may be making decisions based on your advice.


Written by: Randy Collins, Greater Mount Airy Chamber of Commerce President & CEO
Published in The Mount Airy News Sunday, April 19, 2020