The Internet is the New Reality: if you can't Google it it didn't happen, isn't true.
Here are some of the essentials you have to know in order to navigate such a moldable reality.
Google Doesn't Understand Questions
When you type in something like "who won the war of 1914?" Google doesn't know what you mean.
It doesn't understand that you are asking a question. It can't answer — even if it seems like it does.
Instead, it tries to find all pages on the Internet that have the words "who won the war of 1914" on them. Sometimes those words aren't even in the same order!
Google Doesn't Know Best
When you search something in Google they don't give the best pages or the most true ones.
The results you see when you do a search are arranged by popularity: the more people like a website, the higher Google puts it in its list.
Sometimes the most popular results are right, sometimes they're not.
Sometimes the pages with the best information are not so popular.
Because a lot of people think that the things Google shows first are the best ones, a lot of websites work very hard at trying to be popular. Sometimes they even work harder at trying to be popular than at trying to be good.
The more money a website has, the more popular they can become until Google finally puts them as the very first result for a search. This can make the website very rich — and so they can stay very popular.
Advertisement On The Web
A lot of things on the Internet are paid for with advertisement.
There are two things everyone has to know about advertisement:
1. Anybody can say almost anything in an advertisement. Some things you read, see, or hear in advertisement are simply not true.
2. Advertisement wants to sell you something — even the funny ones or the ones that are about free stuff.
Advertisers Know What You Do Online
The more you use the Internet, the more the companies that put advertisement on the web know about you.
These companies look at which computer you use, the times you use the computer and for how long, the searches you do, videos you watch, images you click, and websites you visit.
There is almost nothing they are not allowed to do. And there is almost nothing you can do to make them not find out and remember all this information about you.
With the information they have they try to guess what kind of things you like and what kind of things you would like to have. Then, the next time you are on the web, they automatically put advertisement with things they think you really want to buy.
Advertisement On Google
When you search something on Google not everything you see on the page is real information.
Google puts advertisement at the very top and to the right of the search results. We put a red box around them in the image below.
These ads are picked by Google's computer to match what you are looking for.
There are no real limits to what someone can write in such an ad; they don't have to be honest.
Hidden Advertisement On Websites
Not everything you see on a webpage is real information.
Some websites put advertisement links in such a way on their pages that it looks like the information you were looking for or as if clicking on them will get yu to a place with that information.
For every click on such a link the owner of the website gets money; "tricking" people into by making advertisement look like content simply gets them more money.
In the image below we put a red box around the advertisement in the text.
You can recognize the most popular type of these ads by the little AdChoices in the bottom right corner. Like this:
It's not too big because not even Google — who also gets money when you click on these links — wants people to be too aware that these are ads.
Some other advertisement comes as links to other pages right in the middle of the text. Often those type of advertisement links have a double line under them; regular links on the web have no line under them or just 1. Most of the time when you hold your mouse over these links and wait a little they show extra information, like so:
Like with all advertisement there are almost no limits on what someone can say in them: they don't have to be true or fair.
A Lot Of Pages Are For Advertisement
Because advertisement pays for so many things on the Internet, many pages exist just for advertisement.
The other things on the page — the images and text — are there not to be the best but just so they can show advertisement.
A lot of these articles are written by people who don't really know a lot about the things they write about. Their job is to make more pages to show more advertisement.
Who Wrote This? Is This Really True?
Anybody Can Write Anything
A lot of the things you read online are not written by the people who know the most about it.
Most things you read online are written by people whose job it is to write. Today they write about the best food to give to a kitten, and maybe tomorrow they write about how to be a teacher.
Anybody Can Make A Website
For as little as $13 anyone can have a websites with an official name and everything. Some websites are free. The more money you have the prettier you can make it but anyone can make a beautiful website for very little money.
That is why just because something is on a website it doesn't have to be real or true.
Some Of The Most Popular Answers Are Wrong
Some of the things "everybody knows" are wrong. Sometimes they used to be right but not anymore. That happens when scientists discover and learn new things, for example.
It take a long time before "everybody" knows the new information. And every time someone searches on Google they find the old (wrong) information. Maybe they will write about it. Maybe they will even write about it on a website. And so the old (wrong) information stays popular in Google for a long time.
Because results for your search are arranged by how popular that website or webpage is you can't be sure they're right. The answer to how much 1 + 1 is is something you calculate, not something you vote on.
Because you can't be sure that the answer you read is actually completely true, you have to click back and visit some of the other websites in the list too. What do they say?
Or what comes up when you change your search a little? Or when you search for extra information about something you just read?
You Are The Best Researcher
One of the best ways to see that something you found is true is understanding it. Does it make sense? Can you understand it?
If nobody is able to help you understand it, or you are stuck with extra questions, maybe it simply isn't true.
"Just because" or "everybody says so" are no good reasons to believe something. Remember, Google sorts their results by popularity — not by truth.