Recently a fellow passenger asked me what I missed most about home. We were on a small ship and were out of contact with the rest of the world.
I realized that besides missing my friends and my usual food and drink, being able to use the Internet was what I wanted most. In fact, just as my shipmate asked that question, a devastating rainstorm had hit my hometown. I didn’t learn about it until the end of the week, when I could check my email and found messages from several friends.
Of the two main parts of the Internet, email is simultaneously the more immediate and the more frustrating. Email pushes news to us from friends and groups along with a lot that doesn’t interest us at all.
A Smaller Web
(Caye Caulker, Belize, Nov. 29, 2011)
The Web doesn’t bombard us that way. If you want to find something on the Web, you use a browser to pull it into your computer.
Some websites offer the best of both worlds. For example, HealthCentral.com, where for eight years I have written about diabetes, lets readers subscribe to my articles so they will get email notification of new ones.
On Mendosa.com I use a different way to tell my readers about new articles. Each month my free “Diabetes Update” newsletter summarizes my new articles.
In February 1995 when I started my website, the Web was in its infancy. In fact, the only older diabetes website is the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse, still one of the best diabetes resources.
We didn’t have graphical Web browsers until 1993. When I learned in February 1994 that I had type 2 diabetes, I was desperate for information about it and immediately got online. But then we had too little information.
Now it can feel like we have too much. The Web is well on the way to including essentially all the world’s written knowledge.
For those of us who have diabetes this means that we literally have at our fingertips more information about our health than any doctor did two decades ago. We can find the facts, the news, research findings, and analyses of what’s happening with nothing more than the click of a mouse or a swipe on a touchscreen.
For established facts about any aspect of diabetes the best source is Wikipedia, the biggest and best encyclopedia the world has ever known. For current news we have lots of choices, but Google News is one that I use regularly. You can personalize it to show news about diabetes (or anything else) by using the button on the upper right that looks like a gear. If you want to find primary research findings, nothing can compare with PubMed, a website of the U.S. National Library of Medicine with more than 23 million biomedical citations, including abstracts in most cases and full-text reports often. Or if you are looking for an analysis of diabetes facts, news, or research, you can bring up thousands of websites, including mine.
But these analyses also have the most misinformation. The strength as well as the trouble with the Internet is that it gives a megaphone to anyone who wants one. Once people get online, anyone can set up a website without spending a penny more.
The challenge we face in using the Internet is to evaluate what we read. But several libraries offer excellent guidance on their own Web pages. The one I like best is Cornell University’s “Five criteria for evaluating Web pages.” Reading that Web page before you believe anything else you read on the Internet could prevent a lot of grief.
This article is based on an earlier version of my article published by HealthCentral.
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