2 percent of Americans trust everything on the Web

A survey performed on behalf of Mancx, a community for business answers, says that 98 percent of people distrust information they find online. Should we care about the 2 percent?

HolasPhilosophy/YouTube Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It seems that, in this election year, we're all obsessed about the 1 percent.

Today, I would like to discuss the 2 percent. We must decide what to do about them, before it's too late -- both for them and for us.

I am in possession of a devastating piece of research commissioned by a company called Mancx.

This is not an organization dedicated to people who come from Manchester, England, and talk with accents derived from a depressed power drill.

Instead, this is a business question-and-answer site where real people can actually buy and sell information, which sounds rather exciting, in a capitalistic sort of way.

Mancx was very keen to discover whether people trusted what they read on the Web. What the company discovered, on talking to almost 2,000 Americans, was that there is a heartening skepticism.

Indeed, many, many Americans are skeptical about whether information they find online is outdated (56 percent), or whether the presence of too many ads suggests bias (59 percent). They worry that, in seeking answers, the results they are given are being promoted by interested parties (53 percent).

The startling headline Mancx offers from this work is: 98 percent of Americans distrust the information they find on the Internet.

One cannot help but imagine that the people who run Mancx are optimists. Indeed, I understand they might be from Sweden -- which means that they, at least, bathe daily in social security.

For myself, though, this headline has a far more startling aspect: 2 percent trust everything they see on the Web. They log on every morning and are endlessly fascinated by what is happening in the world.

They believe, one assumes, that Bigfoot has been found in Georgia and that iPods can be charged with an onion (How could I not embed that?).

They believe, perhaps, everything they read at TheOnion.com.

Who is among these 2 percent? Where do they live? Are they always happy? Are they all members of the Gump family?

Are they the people who go on Match.com and truly believe everyone there is single? Are they the ones who think that both Glenn Beck and Rachel Maddow are always telling the truth?

Should one not mock them, as they will soon receive $4 million from a prince in Nigeria and therefore be even more interesting to know?

The sadness is that even hardened and the wary are sometimes fooled. They switch their skepticism off for a nanosecond on hearing, say, that Jennifer Aniston is dating Justin Bieber and, a few hours later, a strange sweat cascades from their brow.

We have created this uncertainty. The human need to fool others as a means of control goes back centuries. The Web is merely the latest Colosseum in which the fooling follows the flogging.

It is not merely the emptor who needs to heed the warning of the caveat. It is the empty, desperate-for-knowledge vassal that is humankind.

 

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