What websites do you trust to quote? Do you think about the endings – .edu, .org, .com, .net – when you are looking for important info? This is something I regularly discuss with my students (at the community college level) because it is so easy to obtain false and misleading information via the web. I can write anything I want in this blog (with the acceptance of the website master) without seeking the accurate information. Certainly not a goal of mine, but the possibility is there. For example, if you want to find Holocaust naysayers, they are as close as your internet connection. Being choosy about who and what kind of websites you cite are important for keeping your credibility both as a person and as a writer.
I do wonder, however, what makes me trust certain sites. I suppose that is the historian in me. I trust AARP, I trust the BBC, and I even trust The New York Times with certain limitations. That would make me a liberal, I believe, but as Matthew McConaughey‘s character said in A Time to Kill, I am not a card-carrying ACLU radical. Clearly, my political and social leanings affect whom I believe.
I was speaking with a fellow volunteer yesterday, a woman in her late 20’s or early 30’s, and she made the comment that recently a client asked her to be careful where she got her information. That was a surprise to me. Not the “careful urging” but the fact that someone must advise that. Are we all careful about where we get our info? When I hear “they said …” I want to run. Instead, I usually ask, “who are ‘they'”? My spouse was reading an article from USA TODAY about warding off Alzheimer’s, which includes lots of regular exercise, Vitamin D, and drinking up to 5 cups of tea a day. My immediate question was, “Who did these studies?” If one of the studies was performed by a tea manufacturer (think Lipton, my favorite), I would have been suspicious.
Information is a great thing to have. However, correct and careful information is vital. While growing up, I often heard “practice makes perfect.” Not true. “Perfect practice makes perfect.” I don’t try to research all of the information that is passed my way because, obviously, I do not have unlimited time to do that (much as I would enjoy it!). But when I hear what I consider extreme words such as “never”, “always”, “should”, etc., in information offered to me, furious red flags fly and I vehemently question the information. Taking these precautions may help you to disseminate the information that bombards you daily. It can actually be fun.