Top Tips for being an Educated Consumer of Online Information

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Top Tips for being an Educated Consumer of Online Information

Author: Tatianna | Published on January 3, 2017 | Views: 2596

Part of Cybrary’s personal office library.

Updated August 2018

As we enter a brand new year filled with both hope and more than a fair degree of trepidation, As always, there are points in time where it’s worth taking a moment to review how to be wise consumers of online information. This seems particularly urgent in the “post-facts” world that we find ourselves in after a US presidential election that was shockingly devoid of facts. It also gave rise to Fake News, something that’s actually been around for a while, but rose to the fore as a strategy (weapon) during the past election cycle. The extent of its impact has not yet been fully assessed.

We can blame a host of culprits from the media, to politicians and special interests, to shameless profiteers, but the buck ultimately stops with us. When you get fooled – even just once by bad info – you have no one to blame but yourself. That may sound harsh, but when consuming information like it’s coming from a fire hose, you have no choice but to be discerning. The alternative is to be washed down the rabbit hole of dis and misinformation and flat-out lies.

Discerning what information is ‘right’…

In a way, knowing how to consume information online is a form of cybersecurity. The damage bad info (misinformation) or disinformation (half-truths) can inflict can be every bit as destructive as malware or a DDoS attack.  ~ Insert bad Donald Trump joke here ~ And it’s more than biting on fake political news. Getting a bum steer on which flat screen TV is best or weight loss scam can cost your pocketbook. Worse, not taking the time to gather sufficient info and data for a medical condition or treatment could be hazardous to your health. And yes, many people turn first to the internet for health advice, including yours truly.

Since it’s a broad subject, it will require a series of posts to adequately cover everything. A mini-series, if you will. The use of search engines – Google in particular – will require a post all its own. You probably think you know how to use Google just fine, but most people only scratch the surface when it comes to taking advantage of its full capabilities. There’s a lot more to Google than simply punching some words into the search box. We’ll take a deep dive into some of its lesser-known features and perhaps more importantly when to take the results (answers) it serves up with a large grain of salt.

In a latter part(s), we’ll examine sites you can get to without using Google, though most of the “usual” suspects will typically appear on page one of Google’s search results for the vast majority of searches. Some of them such as Wikipedia.org, Snopes.com, and Reddit.com among others, often get a bad rap. But when consumed responsibly, they can provide a wealth of valuable information not found elsewhere. And lest we forget, there’s the full gamut of social media sites. One of them has been featured quite prominently recently: Twitter.com.

These sources of online information include, but are not limited to:

  • Wikipedia.org
  • YouTube.com
  • Vimeo.com
  • Reddit.com
  • Quora.com
  • Stackoverflow.com
  • WebMD.com
  • MayoClinic.org
  • PubMed at nih.gov
  • Snopes.com
  • Amazon.com and other shopping sites
  • Travel and hotel booking sites
  • Data and search aggregators
  • Facebook.com
  • Twitter.com
  • Instagram.com
  • Other social media sites
  • Online forums and user groups
  • Review sites such as Yelp, Google+, FourSquare, etc.
  • The Dark web

When it comes to news things can get pretty dicey in a hurry. Since this is a controversial subject area, I’ll provide some basic guidelines and a sample of online news sites that cover a range of political viewpoints from liberal to conservative along with a general warning about how to approach sites of an extremist nature. To be honest, much of my news consumption begins in my Facebook newsfeed. I probably shouldn’t admit that publicly, but I don’t think I’m alone in that practice.

It’s certainly a lot to cover and before I conclude, I should mention another important area of online information: education, tutorials, and training. There’s sufficient information that is accessible such that any of us can become quite adept in almost any subject area given sufficient time, focus, and dedication. This is a topic that deserves a dedicated post and one that is certainly very relevant to the reason all of us are here on Cybrary.

If you’re interested in pursuing cyber security as a career, check out their newest addition – Career Paths – for mentored guidance, virtual labs, and more.

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