Navigating the World with Wikipedia
Through finals and boring classes, plot synopses and weird articles you swear you just ended up on, no one has your back like Wikipedia.
By James Reyes, The University of Texas at San Antonio
My Dearest Wikipedia,
I write to you as just one of the many thousands of students that have looked to you for guidance and answers over the years.
Do you remember that one time I pressed “Random article” and we found ourselves swept away to an entry about the Aletsch Glacier? After traveling the Alps for a shivery minute, we stooped down a paragraph to pluck a stemless gentian, and then after a few seconds of appreciating the smoky-blue flowers, I swear that I became an expert.
Afterwards, after seeing the same flower on the Austrian currency, our financial curiosity drove us back home to America, specifically to the United States Mint. We learned how dimes and nickels are made, then about American history and finally we stumbled across a theory that purported the entire country was actually big floating woman.
As I’m sure you know, my sweet digital encyclopedia, the list goes on. With you, students stricken with wonderlust can get to know the world. Oh shoot, two hours just flew by!
Wikipedia, I wish schools administered you as a mandatory class. Each week, students could write a report about the most fascinating article or piece of information that they came across. If only more students were encouraged to explore the “useless” and “irrelevant” parts of you, society might be filled with well-rounded individuals. If students were rewarded for their curiosity, there might even be less boredom in the world.
With your help, regular people can become bona fide professionals on topics as far flung as augury, geography and breath mints—I know I did. Heck, I even made a petition for you. You know your problem isn’t real if it doesn’t have a petition.
You taught an entire generation how to edit. Some anonymous weirdos may not take pleasure in tampering with you, but whatever; millennials, at least, are indebted to you for teaching them basic proofreading.
Granted, some of these edits were not always so honest. Reputable individuals have altered a few details here and there, and even Donald Trump’s right hand man needed to make himself a little more “flattering.” Who could blame them?
If you have the ability to shape yourself into someone more appealing, forget authenticity—why not?
Might I add, you also have a tremendous sense of humor. You teach students about British politics, Canadian soda, Plato, Batman and more. Talk about quirky, tongue-in-cheek humor. Not for everyone, true, but I appreciate it. I don’t know if you remember that one late night we stayed up getting all conspiracy-y about the “27 Club?” Remember how “What if I’m next?” I got? I’m still not counting myself out.
Still, not every relationship is perfect, and even though I’ve asked you a million times to stop, every year like clockwork you insist on hitting me up for money. You plead with all the desperation of a friend on the verge of being evicted from their internet apartment, but every month I come back and every month you’re still there. I know that the classic I’m-a-poor-college-student card is getting old, but there has to be somebody with more money than me that you can ask. I’m sure they would love the general public to be smarter.
Also, I really don’t appreciate when you still ask me what language I speak. How long have we known each other, Wiki? Longer than Brad and Angelina were a thing, and yet you still forget that I prefer English (American). I know you know I speak Latin. Nos autem non intelligitur esse.
Yes, you may have a bit of a shady past, what with your original funding coming from a softcore advertising website. (I won’t even link that, thank you very much.) But, hey, we can’t always choose where we come from! Another life lesson you’ve taught me.
Ultimately, Wik, schools should encourage befriending you. Students should play with you. Professors should take you home every other night. Politicians should stop exploiting you. You have given, not just me, but the entire world a mirror with which it can see itself. Even if you weren’t always accurate. (Though that never stopped anyone.)
With deep admiration,
Everybody in the World