Opinion » Cybernaut


The eight ball says 133



When I first heard of a new U.S. survey that found almost half of all Internet users turned to the web before making major life decisions I scoffed – then realized I was only scoffing at myself.

Before my fiancée bought a car I researched every make and model out there, reading the reviews while comparing stats like gas mileage.

When I was proposing to said fiancée, I went to the web to find out how to size rings and look at different styles and prices.

When I get sick or injured these days I research my symptoms on the web sometimes before I head to a doctor. And if a doctor prescribes any medication I always look it up online to learn more about side effects and possible contraindications – in other words I want to know if I can still drink beer.

Before we buy a house I know we’ll use the web to research our mortgage options to figure out what we can afford. We’ve already done some online research, even though we’re likely still two years or more away from coming up on the staff housing list.

I use the web to plan vacations, to stay in contact with friends and family, and to otherwise organize my life. It becomes a bigger part of my job all the time.

In fact, I use the Internet for so much these days that at this point I would say that there are very few major decisions I make in life without consulting the web.

I always make sure to check several sites so I’m not getting my information from a single, potentially wrong, potentially crazy source, and I try to balance that information with my own knowledge and intuition. But I need the extra data the web provides to feel confident I’m doing the right thing.

Part of the reason is that I have a tendency to be indecisive when I don’t have all the information, but the main rationale is that the web has officially become habit – I go there for information today because that’s where I’ve been going for about the last 13 years.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project, which conducted the survey, found that about 60 million Americans, representing 45 per cent of regular Internet users, consulted the web before making big decisions. That figure is up five per cent since the last survey in 2002.

The survey group was comprised of 2,201 respondents which were asked whether they used the web to make decisions in eight key areas; career training, changing careers, choosing schools, buying a car, making an investment, making a major financial decision, to help themselves or another person with a major illness or health condition, or when looking for a home.