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Internet Expert

December 30, 2013 - Carrie Olson
The rabbit hole. Get on Facebook or Twitter. Click on a somewhat interesting link that someone you sort of knew in high school posted. Start reading said link. Go to Wikipedia to learn more about the disease/cult/war battle. Click on related links. Look at the clock. Two and a half hours later …

This was my Saturday a couple weekends ago. Sick with the flu, I woke up at around 7 p.m. after hours of sleep to be plagued with boredom. So I hopped on FB and someone from my distant past posted a U2 video montage. I could listen to them all day, so of course I clicked. And then I started listening to various concert YouTube videos (all the while looking up albums and fun facts on Wikipedia). One video led to a documentary on the making of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” which led to me to learning everything I could on Bob Geldolf, it’s creator. And then I watched two very long BBC documentaries on the making of Live Aid. I Googled set lists, ‘80s artists I wasn’t exactly sure about, and more about the concert’s competitor, USA For Africa. And then I started watching Dire Straits, Cars, and Queen videos. It was 3 a.m. before I exhausted my search efforts.

It’s so easy to do. I had a friend tell me that there was no need to buy cable because she does the same thing at night and it eats up a lot of her time. So I know I’m definitely not alone on this. And after my long night obsessing about Live Aid and the complicated behind-the-scene relationships, I knew one thing: I was still no expert on the subject. I wasn’t there. I was a little kid during the whole experience and I just happened to have some very distant knowledge on the subject. All I really have now is a lot of information that I could share with other rock enthusiasts and some party talk that I can pull out if a conversation got too yawn-worthy.

Yet this doesn’t stop some of us from yanking that knowledge to the forefront in an effort to “educate” one another or to show people how unbelievably “smart” we can be. Last night, I got pulled away from my Breaking Bad marathon for 45 minutes of information on Family International, a fabulous group of church-going citizens who happen to be super creepy. But rather than go on my social media outlets proclaiming that I have learned all there is to know about said cult, I decided against it. I have no extensive background studying cults, I didn’t earn a sociology degree or become a certified expert in the field – so no. I am just really good at Wikipedia. So good.

And I’m definitely no doctor. While has been great at pinpointing different symptoms to certain diseases, my self-diagnosis skills need a lot of help. It always ends up with me fearful in the early morning hours of having some undiagnosed cancer or an incurable disease. After a few hours of sleep and away from my computer, most times I realize that I have yet another cold or sinus infection.

I find it kind of fun and laughable when people do post their nighttime findings on Facebook. Yet, when it comes to more serious matters like vaccinating your child, I become a little more wary and a bit more serious. We can Google. We can all visit blog posts. Does that make us knowledgeable or the people who originally posted said articles an expert? No, absolutely not. A Buzzfeed post or a holistic person’s top five ways to stay healthy shouldn’t be your guiding light on health issues. What you do to yourself is your own business, but posing as an expert on social media is very dangerous. There are many people who are new to the site, who may be vulnerable, or curious – I’d much rather for these people to be swayed by actual experts than Internet experts, IMO.

The Internet is the Internet. A lot (AND I MEAN A LOT) of stuff posted is just stuff. It’s not verified, it’s opinion-driven, and should be taken with at least a grain of salt. The guy posing as a medical doctor giving you information on Yahoo questions could likely be chowing down on a pile of Cheetos while managing his WOW characters.

Post carefully, my friends.


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