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On “the internet authority” idiocy

I love the internet. I love the information available to anyone with an ISP or smart phone. I love that everyone has the ability to learn anything they want from fairly reliable sources. I love that we can feed our thirst for knowledge fairly quickly and easily. I love that it elevates the under-educated and helps lessen the collective ignorance of the computer-using world.

That said, I have a problem with that ease of knowledge. Because people have such a vast cornucopia at their fingertips, many seem to think that they are now an authority on a multitude of subjects from medicine to world history to the inner workings of the mid-eastern political situations involving religion and law. They also seem to think that they have the inherent right to spout their new-found “knowledge” unto those who have studied in detail and hold degrees in these specific subjects. These internet-authorities think that because they read on wikipedia or other (in their estimation) valid websites, they know better or just as well as people who have devoted years of study at universities or research schools to their disciplines. 

There is a vast difference between researched/validated published works and internet documentation even if that website has a stated author. Unless those online documents are expressly backed-up by academic or other scholarly institutions, there is little to no accountability for the accuracy of the claims contained within that website. Most institutions will not accept research papers that have bibliographies filled with internet sources because of both the malleability and the unaccountability of online resources. 

Let us also not forget that scholarly study with other students and instructors gives the invaluable asset of outside educated opinion. Peer and doctoral review of ideas and data  as well as dissenting opinions in an academic setting (as opposed to an internet one), lends to not only more thorough understanding but a solid basis for critical thought. As precious as internet information is, no Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, or Tumblr argument takes the place of collegiate and higher level discussion and learning. 

Not only do academic institutions contain verifiable research and resources. They also teach humility. You may be the cock of the walk in your office, high school, or social media site, but there is always someone smarter than you in college. You will realize that the more you learn, the less you actually know. You do not always have the answers. You are not always right. When that is the case, academia teaches us to accept the criticism, build on our ideas/opinions, and incorporate them into our rhetoric. 

Perhaps my opinion is merely elitist, snobby, pompous, pretentious, or any other sort of negative adjective, but despite the fantastic amount of information available to us online, that does not inherently make us an expert, and not always is our opinion valid and in need of sharing.

Edit
Many authoritative and scholarly works are indeed available online. Many institutions, researchers, authors, etc. have made their peer-reviewed materials available to the wide audience of the internet. I in no way wish to diminish their importance. 

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