Critics often howl about the lowbrow triviality of internet content and the perils that await inexperienced web surfers. They dismiss the usefulness of blogs, YouTube and web forums with the casual indifference that drinkers display when waving off cream for their coffee. But for the initiated, the internet is the most useful tool on the planet.
If you can’t remember the name of that song that’s bopping around in your head, just type some lyrics into Google and find the answer in seconds. Are you bored with your uninspired dinner rotation? Type your favorite ingredients into AllRecipes.com and find a list of new variations of your old standbys, complete with ratings and cooks’ comments. Do you want to get a feel for the quality and longevity of a product before purchasing it? Go to Amazon and read the buyer reviews; the truth will out. My wife even walked away from buying a Volkswagen because of disappointing consumer reports she read online.
When it comes to doing things for the first time, there’s no substitute for watching someone else do it properly first. Naturally, we’d all prefer to have someone show us in person, but it doesn’t always work out that way. My wife and I recently used YouTube to learn how to properly grill lobsters, knead pizza dough and lay tile. Last night, we got rid of the grout haze on our new kitchen floor by wiping it with a mixture of vinegar and water. Where do you think we learned about that technique?
It’s amazing to think of all the lifetimes that were wasted combing through card catalogs, encyclopedias and microfilm trying to find answers to obscure questions. Thankfully, those days are gone. An argument could be made that having a one-stop shop for observations, opinions and instructions on everything (much of which is wrong) further dilutes the physical and social network of human contact. That would be a valid point. But the internet also allows us to be virtually connected to virtually everyone. That has to count for something, right?