Some research doesn’t really need to done; or, at best, it’s quantifying something that everyone already knows. Much of the research into internet usage falls into this category. It’s on the increase? Really?
Apparently, more people are using the internet to keep in touch with family and friends, stay informed about current affairs (but they’re not willing to pay for news services), and for entertainment, including porn. (The latter is termed “sexual content” by the report I’m referencing here, CCi Digital Futures 2010: The Internet in Australia.)
OK, so we knew all that, but knowing some of the numbers is useful. And it’s interesting to glean people’s attitudes about what they think should be free online. But even though none of the facts and figures surprised me, there was a stand-out: 84% of Australian internet users surveyed thought that at least half the information online was reliable. Half!
No wonder Nigerian scams actually work — too many people’s bullshit meters are off. It’s easy to switch it on, folks. Any time someone forwards anything to you (whether it’s a wonderful story or a tragic one, or really useful tips, such as how to stay alive in an earthquake), don’t forward it on. Look it up on Snopes, or Google some keywords along with the word hoax. And reading people’s opinions on a forum is not research. Reading articles in peer-reviewed journals is.
I’m sure the percentage of reliable information online will probably never increase (yes, I’m a pessimist). And people probably won’t get more discerning. But I’ll keep replying to every stupid forward with the relevant Snopes link anyway.