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Insert brain here

Jeremy ClarksonJeremy Clarkson

Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that the internet has changed so many aspects of our lives that you need some sort of fancy website to do the sums.

The remarkable thing is that this has happened inside a generation too; it wasn’t that common in homes in the late 1990s, so we’ve got where we are today in less than 20 years. Now our culture has been almost absorbed by it, and it touches almost every corner of our existence.

So much of it is for the better too. Even if you focus solely on the aspects of buying, owning and maintaining a car, the mountain of information and guidance available is truly invaluable.

Sure, you need to know where to look; 15 minutes searching would probably turn up enough contrary opinions to make your head spin, but a little common sense is required whatever resource you’re using.

And on the more pleasurable side of things, there’s so much more time that can be wasted... I mean spent wisely looking up facts and figures about old cars, delving through the absurdly huge archive of videos on You Tube or, heaven forbid, browsing the classifieds on eBay or Autotrader. It also means you can get the latest information on new cars so much faster. If you’ve not watched the latest reveals at a motorshow unfold before your eyes in virtual real-time, then you’re missing out.

The internet has changed so many aspects of our lives that you need some sort of fancy website to do the sums

But you know there’s a ‘but’ coming, right? The internet’s strength is arguably also its weakness; it’s the interconnectivity between individuals and the fact that everyone can contribute that has made things like Wikipedia such a massive success. But at the same time, that makes it much harder to distinguish the voices of reason and authority from those who just happen to be very good at shouting.

A case in point. I have a colleague who, as a part of his job as a road tester presents road-test videos that appear on the You Tube channel of a very successful motoring magazine.

I recently watched a twin test of two cars around a race track that he presented, and was impressed by what he managed to cram into a five-minute video. But then I made the mistake of reading the comments section.

Some people accused him of not knowing what he was talking about. Some accused him of knowing nothing about the two cars he was driving. Someone also accused him of not being as good at drifting as Jeremy Clarkson.

They are all opinions, and I guess everyone’s opinion is valid up to a point. The trouble is, the road tester in question doesn’t have a right to reply. He’s not allowed to go on there and say that he’s been a road tester for over 15 years, drives more than 150 new cars every year and has been a successful racing driver for more than 20 years. If he and Clarkson had a race – drifting or otherwise – I’d happily put my house on him over the lanky Northerner.

And therein lies the problem. The trouble with asking for people’s opinion is that they will give it to you. And the freedom of the internet is non-discriminatory, so the opinion of the well-informed, rational and educating individual is given identical weight to the mindless idiot who wants to start an argument rather than make a valid point. Still, could be worse – you could be made to pay for it as well…

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