A Survival Guide for the Information Ocean

3d humanoid character with a information symbolTwenty years ago, we were just dipping our toes in the ocean of information that the Internet revolution brought about. Today, we are swimming in it and we’re finding out that it’s very easy to drown. Just think how literally everything we need in terms of information is a few seconds of typing into a search engine away. While there are undoubtedly many cases when the info we get is relevant and useful, the cases when we may get misled, with various consequences, are no fewer, to put it mildly. So, what are the things to bear in mind when navigating this vastness of data.

For starters, be suspicious. Be very suspicious and check the sources you are using — how reputable they are, how credible, and how relevant is the information you’ve found. A word about the difference between reputability and credibility. The website of a big oil company, for example, is the place to go for the most credible information about its financial performance, should you be interested in exactly that. If you’re looking for information about the pros and cons of fracking, however, the website of a company that is directly engaged in this activity is hardly the most credible place to look for facts; after all, they have a material interest in fracking. On the other hand, to make things more difficult, are sometimes extremist environmentalist organizations that also have a material interest in blowing things out of proportion, so be wary of both and look for the real facts somewhere in between. The principle is the same across information channels. Don’t take at face value the first Facebook status or Twitter posting which screams that the aliens are coming, check with a global news agency before you start packing. There is a principle in journalism that requires a writer to check with at least two different sources before starting on a story. In today’s world, where everyone is a writer of sorts even if it’s just on social networks, this principle is a healthy way to avoid misleading others and being misled, regardless of what your purpose is when mining for information.

Taking things a bit further, think about how we have all become doctors, as we hunt in our search engines, of choice for the best treatment that would relieve us of, say, the common cold. Now, this is where things become serious because it’s our health that is at stake. The Internet is full of medical information on all conditions and diseases possible, but most of us are not doctors. Tempting as it may be to diagnose ourselves or our kids based on what we have read in one blog or another, a visit to the doctor is the smartest thing to do for anything beyond the common cold that gets us every winter. The same goes for child nutrition and all other things that directly concern your wellbeing and that of your loved ones.

A final word of caution that is related to the latest developments in the marketing industry. Marketers across the world are being advised to focus more on content marketing to reach more potential customers more efficiently. There’s nothing wrong with that, it’s a business like any other, but be wary of what your read and watch online in case it is not the objective truth but rather an advertising effort to sell a product which you may or may not need.