By Liz Quirin     1/7/2015

I hate to admit it, but I rely on my Yahoo News for breaking news on basically whatever they run and see as “important.” And more and more, many of us rely on the Internet as a source of information.

We seem to believe it without question, and “there’s the rub,” as Hamlet would say. We’ve dropped our “grain of salt” along the way and are ready to swallow whatever we find as gospel truth when it most assuredly is not. Often, it is a tremendous waste of time — how many cat videos does it take to satisfy the ordinary viewer?

So much information is available, and no one puts anything on the Internet with a disclaimer that “this might not be true.” As the authors tell it, they are the experts, and we should be thrilled they are giving us the opportunity to read what they wrote, not to mention to buy, buy, buy whatever is popular at the moment.

Almost anything and everything is available, but sometimes value discernment is required.

For children, however, discernment is mentally premature because their Web use is not necessarily monitored, and they can be lured into schemes or scams that could prove dangerous or even deadly if they are not discovered. Every time something happens, more safeguards are put in place. Parents restrict access to the Internet or companies require proof of age before charges are accepted.

Even for adults, it’s so easy to get in over your head, whether you’re charging Christmas gifts at various stores or making poor choices about where you spend your free time and perhaps, money, on the Internet.

The flip side, of course, is that you can research anything, and as long as you look for more than one opinion on a topic, it can be a valuable experience. Using the Internet to find out about an illness from reputable sites can allay fears or help you make a decision to call a doctor now, not sometime in the distant future. Then, it can be a godsend.

We can find a saint for the day, a reflection on daily Scripture, the Bible, spiritual authors and material that fits our needs wherever we find ourselves in life.

In November, our thoughts and research can lead us to learn about All Saints or All Souls, how some cultures celebrate el Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. Or we can look for information for holidays, whether they belong to us or other nations or cultures.

Catholic information abounds from Catholic magazines and newspapers to Catholic authors and essayists. All we have to do is get close to spelling a word or a name correctly, and we can be reading for hours.

That also points out a problem with the Internet and a highly frustrating one. If you don’t key in the correct word or close to the correct word, it’s like falling down Alice’s rabbit hole. You search and search and find many interesting topics or pieces of information, but you can’t find what you need. It’s not that it isn’t on the Internet, you just can’t find it.

I’ve been lost in Wonderland myself, sometimes for lengthy visits without finding what I need. When that happens I call someone I’ve discovered who is expert at researching. That usually works.

However we use the Internet, we have to use caution. So much information exists, and while some of it is wonderful and enlightening, some of it is wrong and misleading. When we have questions about what we read on the Internet, we need to keep clicking, find a different source, contact a real person, someone we know and share what we’re doing.

With the Internet, reading one entry is seldom a good idea, even if it’s Yahoo or CNN or any other source. In this instance, truly more is better. c

Liz Quirin is editor of The Messenger, newspaper of the Diocese of Belleville, Ill.