Although some of the initial swine flu hysteria has seemed to subside, search trends indicate that it’s still very much in the public consciousness. After hearing multiple stories and stats from both the local and national news, people fired up their computers and turned to the search engines.
People, of course, turned to their most trusted search engine—Google. Within that engine, queries such as “swine flu symptoms” and “swine flu” rose as quickly as the hysteria itself. The following is a list of the top ten visited websites based on these search terms.
4. News. Yahoo.com
This list offers an interesting glimpse into the way people find information. While the most visited site is a government sanctioned and endorsed entity, the second couldn’t be more different as a publicly created and publicly edited venue.
Overall, it is telling that there are just as many government sites (Center for Disease Control, Pandemic Flu, and World Health Organization) as there are social networking and user-fueled sites (Wikipedia, MySpace, and Facebook). And while there isn’t any one type of site dominating this list, general news sites do comprise four of the top ten sites.
It seems, therefore, that people are not content, on the whole, to accept what any one institution or organization has to say about issues of global import. Before the internet made these multiple channels of information possible, the official government line was given a lot more credence.
In an age of government mistrust (especially in the United States), information is not so much believed as cross referenced. If this list can be seen as any indication, facts are taken from the government and checked against what both the public and the journalistic community have to say. It’s difficult, however, to make a judgment about this type of information dissemination. On one hand, there is a greater pool of information and a more open view about fact sharing. But by the same token, unregulated information sharing can lend itself to inaccuracy, conflicting accounts, and personal interpretation.
Therefore, to get accurate information about any one topic, it simply means a lot more work on the individual’s part. Information must be taken from multiple sources, sifted through, and pitted against each other to determine what seems most likely and most reasonable.