And not just because it has loads of pictures of cats, although that’s a big plus point, obviously. I love it because the whole world is there. You can find anything, or almost anything. I have thought in the past about doing a “Things I should be more Zen about” post about people who ask for simple information over email or social media when they could easily find it out for themselves on the internet; I haven’t because I would hate anyone to think I am getting at them specifically. But the internet acronym LMGTFY does not exist for naught (Let Me Google That For You, since you ask).

Part of the reason why people do ask (other than straightforward laziness, of course) is that the internet does not have a kind librarian to help us find what we need. Indeed, it’s not like a library at all, in that nothing is on shelves, and nothing is sorted. One of the reasons people probably like Amazon so much, despite its appalling attitude to tax and social responsibility, is that Amazon acts as a librarian for internet shopping, sorting and filing things and presenting them on request. The internet as a whole, though, is more like a huge dump of information, all jumbled together, and Google, as well as being the magical portal to that enormous data dump, is also a sort of magic hand which can dive into the haystack and come out with a needle, or, to be more accurate, a whole bunch of needles. But is one of them the needle you want, and how do you pick through them?

Well, for starters, Google (and other search engines, but Google is still the best) isn’t really like a magical hand; it’s more like a dog. You need to train it, and it helps if you know a bit about how dogs operate. The internet will, like a dog, try to be helpful, and it helps if you know how to work it. For instance, if you don’t know about Boolean operators, then Google them now! Put “Boolean operator” in, including the inverted commas, and see what you get. Find out, if you don’t already know, the difference between Web and Images and what each works best  for. If you don’t use Wikipedia two or three times a day, go and introduce yourself to it right now.

Also, you should know a bit about your browser. You need to know about the back button and the forward button, about favourites, how to access your browsing history (and how to clear it). Find out about settings, what they mean and how to change them, how to print, how to copy stuff, how to share it and how to save it (while retaining proper respect for the law of copyright, of course). Using the internet without knowing these things is like driving a car without using the light, the windscreen wipers and the radio – why would you? And if you don’t know how to do all this stuff? Why, LMGTFY, of course!

More tomorrow.