When I first got the Internet, it could only be accessed in my Dad's office. Then we got it in our house and in truth, it was neither practical nor fit for purpose. The amount of time it took Google to load a search equated to how long it took me to pick up an encyclopedia and find what I needed.
Now, it’s totally different. My constant questioning as a kid could now be satisfied in 0.24 seconds a question. Anything I wonder can be immediately Googled and found out. Yet, the thing is – who says if it’s true. There’s a lot of rubbish online.
Only when I started writing academic essays at college did I start questioning the vague “facts” and “experts” online. For once, I had to read something and internally say ‘prove it’. Suddenly, I found that most of what I read and believed to be true couldn’t be proved. I couldn’t stick it in an essay even if it seemed true because I had no proof that it was. Now, let’s take this back to me when I was younger. Back then I had an encyclopedia, it was years of quality research and just by it being in the book was enough to say that it was probably true.
If I went online now as a kid with questions, or to do some research for an essay – once you start questioning, you realise that a lot of what you read is hearsay. Like basing news on gossip or facts or legend. There’s nothing stopping me starting a blog and saying I have a well-earned doctorate in Astrology and expect people to listen. And funnily enough, they probably would. It was only when I needed to prove to my lecturer that what I was saying was true that I began to realise the importance of fact-checks.
Online is of course only going to become more and more used for information, and I hate how it’s killing centuries of books and well-researched information. I probably wouldn’t have an encyclopedia or dictionary in my house if I were growing up in Ireland today. Yet, that's not to say that I don’t need facts. To reiterate the old adage: quality not quantity. Ours is supposedly the age of Information but without citations it’s just nonsense.
In my head, creating a better Internet for young people looks like a platform where they can ask questions, but are answered with actual facts. With the internet becoming the go to for information, we need it more than ever before.