Do you remember what online searches were like before Wikipedia? The website seems like a researcher’s dream come true with information on just about everything but can you trust it. Wikipedia, as defined by Wikipedia is a “free-access, free content Internet encyclopedia, supported and hosted by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Those who can access the site and follow its rules can edit most of its articles. Wikipedia is ranked among the ten most popular websites and constitutes the Internet’s largest and most popular general reference work.”
While an open but centralised information source is great in theory, the execution leaves a little to be desired. Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Wikipedia and have even donated to help them remain a non-profit organisation. However I don’t base facts gathered for articles wholly and solely on its information because I don’t completely trust the information source. Teachers warn students to avoid using Wikipedia for homework and definitely don’t cite it on papers. Incidentally the Encyclopædia Britannica is available online and premium access is $69.95 for the first year whatever they say for annual renewal. As the Chinese proverb says, “Cheap things are not good, good things are not cheap” and with Wikipedia you get what you pay for. I use the site like Eddie Izzard does when curious about jam, spoons and helicopters:
The term trusted sources has been thrown around the internet for decades now. Don’t open an email attachment if you don’t know the sender. Double-check the URL in a browser’s address bar to make sure you didn’t accidentally go to a shady site; and so on and so forth. In the same vein, valuable information can only come from trusted sources, and truth be told, social media doesn’t fall into that category. Not everybody you’re connected to on Facebook is an actual friend, and all of them are potential liars. All. The onus is ours to pick sense from nonsense, but what about social media advice from strangers?
My homie Chris, shared this video as we discussed this topic…on Facebook of all places. Sharyl Attkisson, an award-winning investigative journalist, gave a TEDx talk at the University of Nevada titled Astroturf and manipulation of media messages. It’s an eye-opener about where information we use to make important decisions actually come from in this digital age.
I don’t want you to become a conspiracy theorist living in the woods or anything but please use the internet wisely. We live in an age when a tonne of information is only a few clicks or taps away. Question everything, as Doctor Who says, and remember that when it comes onto information, Wikipedia isn’t always your friend.