I used to be able to search for information without too much difficulty but now the search engines seem determined to make it as difficult as possible. These days I end up with eyestrain or a migraine due to the constant battle of wading through page after page of badly-disguised sales pages masquerading as impartial content.
These search engines like to interpret my searches in a way which suits them – often responding to the odd word rather than the actual group of words I type in. It’s like asking a question of a narcissistic, numpty of a ‘nerd’ who is hard of hearing, whose first language isn’t English, and just wants to have a laugh at my expense by trying to fob me off with b*ll*cks or to sell me something I don’t want. Honestly, it would be quicker to go to my local library to look certain things up (and that is in lockdown).
You’d think that the increasing amount of information available on www, and the increasing sophistication of algorithms and search optimisation, it should be becoming easier to find what you’re looking for – but no! When I do find what I am looking for, it’s sometimes of questionable origin or accuracy. It’s often impossible to know who is supplying the information, who they are working for and whether, therefore the information is impartial. There are so many experts out there whose qualifications are an unknown but who make money from giving you advice and instruction. For example, I wanted independent advice about different types of electric planers (pros and cons) so I typed in ‘types of cordless planers, UK’. First, I had to trawl through all the ads at the top of the results list, then all the clearly ‘paid for’ or sponsored sites below that which just listed different models and, several pages on, found the practical information I wanted. But then I began to wonder how impartial the information was when I discovered the three recommended types of planers had links to Amazon – who the small print on the page footer says the site is affiliated with.
Another example is looking at hotels and holidays on travel sites. These can get you bogged down in on line travel directory hell for hours.
I know what you might be thinking…. I need to brush up on my search skills and I don’t appreciate how algorithms work or understand the semantics and ambiguities involved in using search terms.
Well that’s certainly true to a point but most people agree that the coders have ramped up the algorithms to either direct us to sites of sponsored companies and corporations which want to sell us something. Also I read that the increased use of A.I. (which is cheaper than using techies to write the algorithms and filter search results) means that search engines themselves are not sure how they work.
Of course we all know that the big companies like Amazon, Pinterest, Tripadvisor and many others pay a lot of money to appear at the top of list of search results. But when we get the same old companies rammed down our throats, page after page, it gets irritating. Also we’re seeing that as people and businesses become more aware of the tricks of the Internet, the use of ‘key’ words and tags to get hits on their websites increases.
All this has resulted in Google and the likes going bonkers and unable to provide relevant search results.
The pandemic has got us all doomscrolling through the news. I clicked a link on an article which took me to The Daily Express site. I was hit with so many ads, pop ups, videos etc. whilst the site jumped about like it was having a fit, I gave up trying to read the article. Other newspaper sites are as bad. Scrolling through the news on my smartphone is even more of a chore. I start reading an article and then suddenly it stops so I have to jump over loads of ads and clickbait, sign in with Google, to carry on reading. I chose UK news on my Home Page and the first headlines I saw were, ‘Sheridan Smith’s devastating dog tragedy and apology for claiming fiancé’s mum was to blame ‘ (Does that even make sense?)
I’ve lost track of the times I searched for things and clicked on what I thought was up to date information, only to find that it is 12 months old or more? Why is it that search results don’t display the date created, date posted, or updated? Some search engines give you the option to search by date e.g. Google, but what a faff! Also, when searching for cars, items of furniture and jazz records I regularly get American and Indian sites first, despite the fact that in my Region search settings I was classified as United Kingdom. Why?
The biggest hard sell on the Internet right now is ‘Get the App’. You need an app for everything apparently. Of course Apps are designed to switch you from the web to your mobile which then makes it easier for companies to mine far more of your personal data than websites and the likes of Google. They want access to your contacts, location, calendar, and other apps on your phone and who knows what they do with that information. And do you understand or even read the apps’ privacy and cookie policies? Not only do apps ask for far too much personal information, they also bombard you with advertising and occasionally malware. My antivirus/security software programme clearly thinks the Internet is a crazy, dangerous, thieving and prying place because it keeps asking me to add on new products. I don’t trust this either, it just wants to extract more and more money from me.
Many people don’t even think about these issues and happily carry on tippy-tappying away on their phones and keypads on the internet to look at pictures of cats, celebrities and get in arguments with strangers.
Clever though the Internet is – capable of accessing the entirety of information known to man – you have to be more savvy and patient than me to tap into its cleverness.
So I suppose the answer to my question is, no, the Internet is not broken. It works, but just not well enough for me – a grumpy old man who is digitally challenged. I suppose it’s just a bit stupid and untrustworthy. Rant over.