“If it is on the Internet it has to be true”.
“I’ve done my own research…”
Every time someone says, with conviction and pride, “I’ve done my research,” I laugh out loud. What they really mean is, “I looked it up on the internet.” Calling that move “research” is like looking at someone’s driver’s license and believing you have the full measure of the person just because you know their name and address. Or asking a bunch of friends what they know about something and then taking whatever looney thing they say as fact.
Cruising the internet is not research; it’s simply looking something up in a very superficial and biased way, and that can be dangerous. Internet searches seem to make people think they are fully informed, knowledgeable, and educated, but they are not.
Here’s why — an internet search takes your keywords and then swoops them past a wide range of websites looking for those words. Before it coughs up a list of websites with matching keywords (their links, that is), the search is filtered through an algorithm of your past searches. That algorithm then spits up a nonrandom list of sites designed specifically to interest you, and you alone. Sometimes having a service anticipate your likes and dislikes is great — walking into a coffee shop and hearing the bartista call out your usual order is friendly and comforting. And that’s what a search engine is also doing; it’s designed to gratify you, not educate you. These algorithms are used because the internet wants to sell you things and make you happy by echoing your already entrenched ideas and tastes. This is not research and you are not being informed.
Also, any list of links is skewed by all sorts of ways that web designers use to pop their particular link to the top of a keyword search. Often these “top” sites on the list are links that are the result of their machinations or sites that have already garnered many views, a self-perpetuating place holder that has nothing to do with the site’s veracity. Top sites often turn out to be garbage in terms of real information.
Also, in no way does an internet search ever provide both sides of an issue or the deep, broad, and historical layers of some subject. That list of links that lines up with great authority under your search pulls the reader into a plethora of possible places that sound official and credible but often turn out to be somebody’s soapbox, or a site designed to separate you from your money. Others are based on a singular personal experience, the musings of a hobbyist, or from a person who has lots of time on his or her hands. And oh-so-many websites simply repeat what other websites have stated, often in the same exact words, leading the reader into a party of plagiarism that leads nowhere.
All this is not research. It’s just an entertaining rabbit hole that makes people think they are getting at the real truth, but they are not. I know this because I do real research, and that word has a systematic process that results in solid and substantiated facts and information very far from what Google spews out.
Most of us take to Google looking for that ‘gotcha’ proof to disprove the ramblings of others. But do you stop and take in the information that challenges your position, or do you continue on to find only those tidbits that prove your position?
I’m betting it’s the later. You will ignore any and every item that disproves your position and will only focus on the things you want to be true. We ALL do it — and it is usually the reason(s) we are wrong.
Okay, I’ve filled this post with six hundred and forty-three words. This is an open thread.