This first part is kind of a rant, but bear with me.
If you’ve been anywhere near the internet in the last five years, you’ll be hard pressed to say you haven’t seen at least one picture that includes the following:
- A pretty picture with some kind of filter
- A quote in an equally pretty typography
- Credit to the author, who is probably (definitely) not the real author.
If I have to see one more “Drake” quote over top of a black and white picture of a dock at sunset, I will lose my mind. Now of course these Tumblr-esque photographs have gotten exceedingly popular with young people aged 11-25 (or older, depending on their access to education). These quotes offer some relevance to their lives, and they post them on their networks as some sort of stress relief/cry for help/attention seeking… nonsense. I’m not sure what to call it. Whatever it is, it’s annoying. Now, I’m not trying to berate people who use quotes to seek clarity or inspiration, and I’m definitely not upset about the people who want to share these quotes with their friends. My problem is the people who have no respect for actual quotes. Nothing against Rihanna, but she didn’t say “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” That was Oscar Wilde. But guess what? Nobody knows who Oscar Wilde is. So people continue to live their lives as if BadGalRiRi is some sort of poetic genius.
Anyways, those poorly cited quotes are just a blip on the radar of illegitimate internet sources. The biggest, and most culturally relevant, being Wikipedia. Personally, I love it. I love that I can Google literally anything and I’m 99% sure there will be a full page dedicated to feeding my curiosity on a subject. From flesh eating disease to film reviews, they’re on there. And I love it. Now, just like all the precious teeny-boppers confusing century old literature with Lil Wayne lyrics, there are people out there who think they have something to contribute to the vast collection of information that is Wikipedia. Fortunately for them, they have every right and capability to do so. Although I’m still not entirely sure how it works, I’m fairly positive you can at least try to write whatever you want on Wikipedia.
Here’s the thing, though. (Most/Intelligent) people know that Wikipedia is a user-based website. That’s all part of the mystery though, isn’t it? Wikipedia is the charming, well-rounded friend you have that has some good stuff to say, but hey, everyone can’t be right all the time. Right? That’s my outlook on it anyways. Wiki is something that must be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, many, many people will choose to go off of what they read on Wiki as exact fact, but not everybody does. I tend to use the website more as a starting point, especially when I’m trying to do legitimate research for something. For example, let’s say I was researching “Slut-Shaming” (just to keep the theme of this blog relevant). I would read the article that is written there as a starting point, so that I have some general knowledge about what it is. There is a quote from a woman named Emily Bazelon, who seems like she has some interesting things to say. I’d open a tab and search her name, and see if she’s done any further work in this area. Further down, there is a link about the “SlutWalk” protest, so I would look into that as well. Long story short, Wikipedia shouldn’t be used as a main source for anything. It’s a starting point, a place to find more things to look for.
I’d also like to bring up the popular website Reddit. I’m a member of the site, but I rarely ever post. In Jose Van Dijck and David Nieborg’s article, “Wikinomics and its Discontents: A Critical Analysis of Web 2.0 Business Manifestos”, they state that “Of those people who use the internet regularly, 52% are inactives, another 33% are “passive spectators”, and only 13% are actual creators.” I like this statistic because not only does it show how massive the internet community is (when you consider how much is being posted, and how that reflects only 13% of users) but also how many people are simply looking, and not contributing. On Reddit and similar sites, these people are called “lurkers”. These people look at content that is interesting to them, but they don’t feel the need to actually be a part of the discussion. Reddit is different from Wikipedia in the sense that people can ask questions, and request responses. Like Wikipedia however, the reliability of these responses is questionable. Just because somebody says they are a doctor online doesn’t mean they are one. Yes, there are circumstances where people can prove these things… but people are usually not skeptical enough to care.
In Jensen’s article he notes that “they rely on free online sources and popular books, and generally ignore historiography and scholarly monographs and articles.” I think that this is reasonable. If people are trying to do legitimate research, they are going to go beyond Wikipedia. People are aware that what they are reading is not necessarily reliable. It’s Wikipedia, not a textbook.
I think that one of the best things about our generation is that we have resources that allow us to feed our curiosity. If you really wanted to, you could teach yourself anything. There are infinite avenues to explore on the internet. I for one am extremely happy about the fact that I can read about extinct species of frogs, or discontinued pudding flavours, or what kind of lightbulbs are in tanning beds whenever I want. Yeah, maybe some guy sitting in his living room in Tennessee wrote the article I’m reading, but who cares? I probably wouldn’t take that same guys opinion about the Rwandan Genocide as seriously. In Cindy Royal and Deepina Kapila’s paper, they mention that historical topics are not as well-covered as current events. I feel like that’s a fairly obvious statement to make. Going to Wikipedia for 100% reliable historical fact is like going to McDonalds for a salad. Sure, you can get one, but you could probably get a better one somewhere else.
I’ll just wrap this up by saying, check your sources, don’t believe everything you read, and please, for the love of God make sure you know who actually spoke the words of the quotes you post.
image source: http://weknowmemes.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/dont-believe-everything-you-see-on-the-internet.jpg