I love the interwebs.
I love that I can be watching TV and think “why do I know that face” and two minutes later I’m staring at a list of an actor’s past work.
I love how I can be in the kitchen wondering if there is a suitable substitute when the recipe calls for cream and I have none, and moments later the iPad is giving me answers, complete with instructional video.
Basically, I love how easily I can access information and instruction on just about everything ever.
The thing is, just because the information is out there, doesn’t mean it’s all good information. Even if it sounds like it is.
Like so many things in life, with the good comes the bad. Just as the interwebs made it easy for us to access information, it also made it easier for people to dole it out.
There was a time when, for the most part, you had to go to someone with a proven track record to get information. A “how-to” book was vetted, and likely written by someone with proven success in whatever it is they were demonstrating.
Now, anyone with a blog and the tiniest sliver of charisma can offer up their word as instruction.
And sadly, we can fall for it.
To be clear, I don’t think that everyone who gives advice and/or instruction has to have the same experiences. I’m not at all the type who believes that a certain level of education automatically qualifies you for, well, anything.
But I do believe there are signs that distinguish between someone who is truly knowledgeable and someone who’s advice-giving should put one on alert…
This is one I see all too often. This is the person that will talk ad infinitum about how to do something that they’ve never actually done themselves. It goes something like this:
“You want to know how to build a table? I’ll give you the tools, and measurements, and a general idea of how to put it all together. What’s that? How’d my table come out? Uhh…LOOK AT THESE SHELVES I made. Everybody loves my shelves! Buy my shelves.”
For those of you scratching your heads…yeah. That doesn’t make much sense, does it?
Sure, shelves and tables may both be made out of wood, but making one thing out of wood doesn’t make someone a woodworking wizard.*
What it might mean is they’ve read a lot of woodworking books and have enough reading comprehension to regurgitate what they’ve read in a palatable manner. Throw in some jokes about wood and hey! The interweb peoples are feeding at your table.
The table that doesn’t exist.
I’m not at all against lengthy blog posts. If a person has something interesting and original to say, I’ll read it, with pleasure. But, some things just shouldn’t take 2000 words to explain.
So My Friends Say…
Have you ever seen the movie Emma? There is a character, Mrs. Elton, who rather than say she is a talented musician, says that her friends say she is.
If an expert’s friends, colleagues, and/or success stories want to sing their praises, by all means, they should let them.
Let me reiterate – they should let THEM.
Related to this point: Quoting yourself. It should never happen.**
Because I Care
I’m here to help.
No, really, I mean it.
I don’t give advice much on this blog. But anything I do share in the way of a “teaching moment” is shared because I want you to benefit. Whether it be something that’s helped me with my writing, a home remedy that’s served me well, or things I’ve read that keep me motivated – whatever it is, I share it freely.
Free being the key word there.
I don’t begrudge people an income. I know what it is to try to make ends meet, and I know that sometimes you have to get creative in bringing a paycheck home.
If you dole out advice or instruction and you get paid, I can’t help but raise an eyebrow when I hear “I share ’cause I care”.
When I was a software instructor, I loved my job. And I did enjoy knowing my students would take what they learned and benefit from it. I probably even cared. But I was also there, mostly there, for a paycheck.
I’m not saying that those out there giving advice/instruction don’t care. But constantly reminding an audience how much they care just before telling them to buy something? It smacks of insincerity.
The Ring of Truth
At this point, some of you may be reading this and nodding your heads. I distinctly heard an “amen” from somewhere in the back.
But you may also be thinking that you’ve learned things from bloggers who may display one or more of these traits. Valuable things.
And I wouldn’t be surprised.
Remember how this conversation started? There is a wealth of information at our fingertips. Technology has made it possible for you to find the answers to most of your questions with click of a keyboard or the swipe of a touch screen.***
The experts/gurus/people-who-can’t-stop-talking have the same access the rest of us do. And some of them even have a bit of talent. They’ve culled together information from qualified sources, and they deliver it to you.
So, sometimes, their advice on something may be dead on.
The important part is understanding that being right about something doesn’t mean they’re right about everything.
Why does any of this matter?
I’ve noticed a disturbing trend lately of groups who follow different “experts” advice like it’s law. And I’ve seen the damage it can cause. I’ve seen them disappointed when they’ve done everything they’ve been told only to see it fail, and are left wondering what they did wrong.
I post this not to be snarky and point fingers. I post it to remind others to diversify your research. Looks for opposing views. Come to your own conclusions.
The interwebs may help you figure out that the actor who looked so familiar was on an old episode of Law and Order, but it might be wrong when it says you can use butter and milk in place of cream.****
Go your own way.*****
And now, earworm…
*for the record, I am not obsessed with woodworking. While writing this, my sister told me that she gets to see the Nick Offerman in D.C. Ergo, the woodworking references.
**you can quote me on that.
***now if I can just get one of those nifty food replicators, my Star-Trekkian dreams will be complete.
****seriously. the results were not good.
*****today’s post is brought to you by: Mondays. Mondays are for ranting. And helping. But mostly ranting. In association with: A sick toddler. Starving you of sleep since 2009.