Posted by Jane D on November 2, 2001, at 21:27:07
In reply to How do you decide what to trust?, posted by Dr. Bob on October 30, 2001, at 1:56:11
I have varying levels of trust. I don't trust any of the information on this site enough to go out and take the drugs described without more information. I do trust some of the posters enough to spend the time checking out links that they provide or searching out my own information on ideas that they suggest. I also use some of the explanatory posts to help understand complicated information from those other sources much like using an instructor to explain a text. Whether or not I trust the posters this much mostly depends on their track record but also by whether what they say is consistent with what I already know. The stability of the posters is useful here since it makes it possible to form impressions of peoples accuracy over time.
One reason I don't trust the posts further is anonymity. There is no way of knowing that people are who they claim to be or that, when 2 or more posters agree, they are really 2 different people. Again, stability helps here somewhat. Another problem is the limits of personal experience. I can't even reliably determine cause and effect in my own case so I know that others can be mistaken as well.
I do use personal accounts in another way - to clarify my own feelings. These are the posts that I read and say "Yes! That's it. That's what was bothering me that I couldn't find the words for". Here there is no such thing as mistaken and even if the other poster was lying, in the most extreme example, it wouldn't matter.
In trusting other sites I use the same criteria as for other pre internet sources: who the author is, what if any credentials they have, what if any known or suspected biases they have (ie drug company, DEA, Amer Psychological Assoc), any constraints they have on what information they present (fears of liability), how reasonable the assertions are, and who else vouches for the information (provided the who else meets all of the other criteria).
In short I guess I really don't trust anyone absolutely at all.
If I present information I try to give the sources I am using so that people can make up their own minds. I don't think anyone should trust me either. Unfortunately, doing that would often take more time than I have to give so I end up not posting at all.