Recently, I spent about six weeks with both my ears pretty much completely blocked. I could barely hear and it felt like my ears were stuffed with cotton. To be honest, it felt more like they were stuffed with kittens. Actually, kittens wearing down-filled ski jackets… but you get the general idea.
I saw my doctor, who told me it was just fluid in my ears left over from a cold… and not kittens, coupled with my crappy sinuses, and that there was nothing she could do. It would simply clear on its own. Because it was driving me nuts, I also went to the walk-in clinic twice and saw different doctors there, who said the same thing.
Not to be swayed by something as trivial as three, highly educated and professional medical diagnoses, I turned to the Internet to see if I could find a quicker solution to my problem via complete strangers with dubious credentials.
After about an hour of earnest research, I discovered numerous home remedies ranging from pouring a weird honey/mint mixture into my ears, to discovering the blockage may be a result of problems with my ovaries.
After verifying that I did not, in fact, possess ovaries, I came to the realization that perhaps the Internet isn’t exactly a foolproof resource.
Sure, you can find all sorts of great and generally trustworthy information online about stuff like how the Montreal Canadiens are doing in the standings or how long it takes to cook a soft-boiled egg — as well as the usual hilarious pictures of cute cats wanting “cheezeburgerz” — but if you want accurate advice on health, legal or other truly important matters, you’ve got to be aware of what you read and where it’s coming from.
Even sites like Wikipedia, which for many today is the go-to trusted resource for just about anything and everything, can have inaccurate or completely skewed information. That’s because Wikipedia’s entries are written by users, and can be edited by other users who sometimes change information based on their own agendas. Even news sites you think you could trust tend to add biases to their coverage to favour a particular worldview… like Fox News, whose political coverage is quite obviously and often skewed toward the U.S.’s Republican and Tea Party right-wing conservative base.
When looking for information online, check your source. Is the site respected? Who authored the information, and why? If the info is coming from some forum user named “woolykitten234,” perhaps his or her medical advice shouldn’t be taken as absolute fact. Even if the source seems trusted, it’s still a good idea to do a bit of a background check and ask the simple question, “why?” — as in “why is this information here in the first place?” Is it here to inform, push a particular agenda, or make money for someone?
Another good idea is to cross-reference everything. If one site tells you to put honey in your ears, try to find several other trusted and respected sites that say the same thing. And always keep in mind that just because it is on the Internet doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. Just remember this quote I found on the web attributed to Shakespeare: “Take thee what thou dost read on the Internet with a grain of salt.”