Whenever I was assigned a research paper in college, the syllabus usually stated in bold face type that Internet sources were to be from a reliable source, with relevant dates and accurate information. My first thought was always ”Easier said than done, Teach.”
Unfortunately, it can be up to the luck of the draw when it comes to finding information that answers your everyday inquiries about life, let alone finding something that will prove factual under a collegiate microscope. The array of unreliable sources found on the Internet has made American adults highly skeptical when it comes to trusting information found on World Wide Web, according to a study conducted by Harris Interactive for Mancx. The study surveyed 1,900 American adults and found that 98% were distrusting of what they read on the Internet. The study also broke down the percentages to figure out exactly why Americans were such cynics:
59% say they are concerned if they see too many ads
No wonder! In the wild west days of the Internet, before pop-up blockers and anti-virus software, ads equaled viruses — tons of viruses infiltrating your fragile hard drive, stealing your files and screwing up your searching capabilities. When people see an array of ads for botox and dating services, the natural fear can be that they are more likely to contract a computer virus than good information.
56% say they are worried about outdated information
There is nothing more frustrating than being roadblocked on your quest for information than an outdated Wiki page or a source that is lacking a date. If there is no date, how in the world do you know when the information came out or if it is even relevant? For instance, let’s say you’re searching for the best photo-editing software, and you come across some dude’s date-less blog that raves about Adobe Photoshop CS4. With this kind of misinformation, you soon find yourself on a quest for software that was “new” four years and two versions ago.
53% say they worry about the information they receive as being self-promotional
Similar to the paid infomercials that run in between late night reruns of “The Golden Girls,” Internet content can often amount to the same level of credibility. Endorsed testimonials or doctored wiki pages can lead to further distrust of sources. It is hard to decipher whether or not an Internet source is slipping past the FTC regulations and getting paid to endorse a product while posing as a reliable “source.”
45% say they are wary of unfamiliar forums
Personal blogs, columns, editorials and some kid’s YouTube video comment can all come up when you hit “enter” and start your search for information. Since there is a plethora of sources varying in reliability that pop up as search results, it is no wonder that people are skeptical of any forum that they don’t know. You can only trust what you know, and that usually amounts to a small group of trusted news organizations that have had time to prove their reliability.
The study also further breaks down the numbers of distrust and found that 94% of people have a great fear of negative consequences from acting on bad information found on the Internet. Not only are people distrustful of information found on the Internet, they also fear the negative impact it could have on their daily lives in regards to fraud, loss of money and credibility. So what do you think? Do you believe everything you read on the Internet? Check out the Infographic below to see how you stack up in the cynic department: