I love the Internet with the same kind of support and appreciation I have for a good friend.
After all, the Internet is the best know-it-all friend we can have. I love the way it can spit out the information I need a second after I seek it.
What impresses me is the wide scope of knowledge at your fingertips. Ask the Internet for the most obscure information, and it will come spitting out.
Sometimes I type in a Google search where I'm not even sure of the right words to try. Nevertheless, the answer I need comes back in a second. Other times, I type in something stupid and I'm quite surprised when the information I need pops up.
One example: Normally I have thick hair with no problems other than plenty of bad hair days. But I started noticing a lot of hair in the shower, enough to clog a drain.
One day, while having breakfast, I felt something fall on my arm. It was a wad of hair.
I searched my mind for any new medication or new products I was using. All I came up with was that I am now taking Vitamin D pills because my doctor insists I have a deficiency. I don't understand how anyone who spends as much time in the sun as I do can have a Vitamin D deficiency. But that's another story.
On a wild hunch, I did a Google search by typing "Vitamin D hair loss." Voila. I had my answer.
Too much or too little Vitamin D can cause hair loss, the Internet said. When I looked at the recommended amount, I realized I was taking too much in the supplements I was given.
I stopped the Vitamin D and never had another problem with hair loss. Credit the Internet for solving one more problem.
I find the Internet is especially good for finding health-related information provided you are careful about having credible sources.
Before I gave in and had surgery for my torn gluteus maximus tendon, I spent hours on the Internet trying to find ways to help my injury without surgery.
Local doctors all told me my injury was uncommon. They had some experience, but not a lot, in dealing with it.
But the Internet had so much information it took me several nights to read it all. One particular article written by an orthopedic doctor appealed to me. It said the best thing I could do to help it mend was to bicycle. His reasoning was that biking brought more blood circulation to the area, thereby helping the body to heal itself.
I love biking, as most of you know. But I hadn't been doing any for months because both my pain doctor and physical therapist said I needed complete rest. They were wrong. The more I rested, the more pain I had.
I decided to try biking as recommended by the doctor on the Internet. He recommended biking in "progressive increments."
I looked him up on the Internet to ask for my specifics. Sure enough, his site offered one-on-one advice. When I typed in all the information it wanted, I learned there was a fee involved.
That's a going Internet trend doctors will give advice and even diagnose for a fee.
I felt uneasy giving credit card information to someone I didn't know. Plus, there is plenty of free information out there. No need to pay for it.
But here's the important thing. There is a great need to be careful on the Internet. The scam prevention officer I interviewed said Internet fraud is rampant. She advised us to be especially careful when we list our credit card information. Always look for the symbol that says it's a secure site.
There is so much conflicting information on the Internet. That alone should tell us we have to be careful about the sites we trust.
Look carefully for words such as advertorial. Any article that has the word "ad" in any form should be avoided. They're trying to sell you something, not to give you straight, unbiased information.
There is a lot of that in sites that scream "Miracle Skinny pill."
There are also sites that pretend to be like consumer reports in giving unbiased information. Look carefully. Many of these are paid for by the advertisers trying to sell you something.
My husband sometimes accuses me of "researching something to death." That happens when I think I have a particular medical problem and want to learn all I can about it.
We all know Internet information, especially about health, can help us by narrowing down possible causes.
Or it can scare us to death.
David thinks reading "too much" about a possible physical problem makes us paranoid. Sometimes he comes into my office when I'm researching a health topic and says, "Stop it."
My belief is we can never know too much.
Have I ever been unduly alarmed by information on the Internet?
Sure. But I would rather know too much than too little.
Want to learn to dance the salsa, or how to fix your plumbing leak?
Want to know the restaurant with the best reviews in your area or learn the best time to visit Italy?
My know-it-all friend will tell you all that and more.
It will even tell you what to make for dinner and will give you the best recipe to make it.
It's hard not to appreciate a friend like that.