Are there blogs or internet sites that you read where you believe the content is written by an expert in the field? How are you able to tell? Does the author state as much or are you left to assume this individual is an expert?
What makes an expert in the world of the internet?
Over the past month, my friend Sarah of Seriously, Sarah? has been addressing the topic of responsible blogging? This is a series I feel that readers and writers of blogs should read. Today, I wanted to expand upon the topic and explore what exactly makes one an expert?
The benefit of the internet is that answers to any problem can be quickly researched from the comfort of the couch at 2 in the afternoon or 2 in the morning. Instant access to a myriad of expert knowledge.
A quick google search can lead one to millions of sites on the desired subject. Many of the first page hits can include blog posts and message boards with answers and discussions from experts and everyday individuals. Much of the information that is found is credible. However, it is important to realize simply because a site looks professional, it does not mean the information is the most credible.
From a professional and personal perspective, I follow several sites and blogs on the subject of grief. During my infertility journey, I also belonged to a message board composed of others going through infertility treatments. Many of my clients have found Facebook and other groups dealing with specific illnesses which they sometimes find helpful. As the author of this site, I often write about grief, mental health and health living.
When an individual is in desperate need of information, it is normal to assume the first few sites will be what they click upon. Hopefully, it is easy to determine if the information is coming from a trained professional with education and training or an individual with personal experience upon the topic. In many cases, this can be difficult to determine.
Before I go further, I feel it is important to note that poor information can be received from both trained experts and individuals who feel they are experts because of life experiences. Readers should take responsibility in researching where the information is derived from and do additional research rather than take the first information as the truth.
Professionally, I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with over 14 years of counseling experience focusing upon grief and loss. I have additional certification and regularly receive extra training.Personally, I have experienced my own losses through the death of my father when I was 10 and most recently my mother and grandmother. A significant reason of creating this blog was to share my personal experience and grief journey through the eyes of someone who has been considered an “expert” in the field. As I have shared, I believe my own expertise has helped me at times but has also made me somewhat more critical of myself.
A few of the blogs that I have followed have had individuals make statements such as “things never get better” and I have read comments on other sites where it was obvious that the individual was struggling. While I received great support from being on the infertility message board, I also cringed when I read messages from individuals who were obviously dealing with issues far greater than infertility. Sadly, in many cases, I have noticed there was no one to respond to comments which truly needed to be addressed. Often, I would leave a message encouraging someone to speak to someone in person.
The blogging community is a wonderful and supportive community with individuals who are genuinely kind and caring. Blogging allows others to find support in the way of families who are struggling with children who have disabilities, individuals who are diagnosed with Celiac disease and others who have chronic diseases. I have had clients who had family members with rare issues find great information from finding another individual blogging about the same issues. I feel that individuals who are or have gone through an issue should certainly be considered experts. However, it is important to recognize that there can be individuals who are writing and giving out advice who also need more education and help themselves.
How does one decide the information they are receiving is coming from an expert?
After reading the initial article which catches your attention, click on the about you page. What does this say? Does it give detailed information about the writer’s credentials or professional/personal experience? Is there a vagueness about the information? How often is the site updated? Return to the original article and review if there are comments made by others? Does the writer respond in a prompt manner with helpful comments? Is there a disclaimer on the post or somewhere else on the blog in regards to the information that is provided?
Along with information, it has also become popular for individuals to create e-courses and other programs. I applaud anyone who is able to create significant material but I also always research the type of courses that are being promoted. What expertise does the individual have who is asking you to purchase the course have? I’ve recently come upon sites where the authors were claiming to be experts with titles I have never heard of before. This makes me question their qualifications.
Become a responsible and knowledgeable reader!
Realize the difference between blogs, professional organization sites and messages boards (I’m realizing this may need to be another blog post). Recognize if the information is coming from someone who is an expert with professional credentials or someone who is an expert with life experiences.
Please share what do you feel makes someone an expert?