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Friday, March 14, 2014

5 Things You Can Do To Make Being Online Meaningful (1-2)

In the book called "NET SMART How to Thrive Online" Howard Rheingold talks about five important skills that we need to have in order to use the Internet meaningfully (and that includes email).

The book interested me because for a long time I have felt that technology is overwhelming. It seems to change so fast and once you do email fairly regularly it tends to pile up faster than you can read it.  How does anyone deal with this? Then there is the issue of safety. How can you keep your identity safe online? What about viruses?

I would highly recommend this book for anyone who is dealing with these questions. In the book he also discusses some other important questions.

  • What do you do if you have a bad reputation online when things that are online ever go away?
  • Why is it important to live mindfully?
  • How can I possibly keep up with technology?
  • Why should anyone use Twitter?
  • Is the Internet making us stupid?
  • Can everyone see everything on Facebook?

It is summed up in 5 important skills that we all need to develop in order to use the Internet in a meaningful way. These are new literacy skills that we all need to learn.


I tend to avoid going to Facebook because a few hours after I have started looking at it I realize how much time has passed and remember (usually too late) why I was going there in the first place. I think we all have that type of experience when we go to the Internet and just follow interesting links from where we are to other interesting places and on and on.

Rheingold says that this is a good new way of learning, but only if you are in control of your own attention and choose to spend time this way. However, it is difficult and takes intentional effort to train yourself in attentiveness.

This section of the book is especially worth reading. He talks about the hoimportance of breathing and being aware of what we are feeling and also our body. It is not good to sit at a computer for too many hours without getting up and moving. Moving brings blood to our brain and helps us to think and learn better. He also suggests that we need to learn to put down the phone or iPad and look at the people we are talking to. Paying attention to others is important.

Multitasking usually causes a person to lose some effectiveness on each thing they are doing. Repetition is important. When you repeat good habits you instill them in yourself.

These skills are especially important for people under their 30's who have lived with technology all of their lives. I have not developed the habit of being caught up in my phone while not attending to people I am with, but you see it all of the time on college campuses. Some of the other literacy skills that he talks about are more important for us "older" folks


You can find almost anything you want to know on the Internet. The words you use to search are important. It is up to you to decide whether what you find is accurate, inaccurate or intentionally misleading. It helps to be skeptical first. Next you can do several "detective" activities to figure out if what you are seeing or reading is accurate.

Think about who wrote the page. Anyone can make a webpage pretty easily now. Try to find the author and search to find out if there is other information about them on the Internet. He suggests some really helpful ways to authenticate a webpage and learn more about it. One important word is TRIANGULATE. That means you should find three sources that agree on something before passing along a rumor.

Here are some websites that can help you to do this:

Snopes is a site where they do research on rumors that float around the Internet and post the source of the ones that are not accurate. If you receive an email offering a free flight on American Airlines is it for real. Searching Snopes will tell you that it is not and why.

Hoax Sites
This is a page that gives you 10 websites that "look" accurate, but are actually made to fool people.

The Gallery of Hoax Images
It is very easy now to edit an image so that it looks just like it must be true!  This site shows images that have become viral (spread quickly- people sharing them with their friends) and explains why they are not  actually true.

The next three skills will be talked about in the next blog post.

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