The negative effects of internet use are widely publicised.

Social media, for example, helps to turbo-charge some of the dafter conspiracy theories. The internet, as I wrote in a recent blog, has also become a conduit for criminality.

I don’t want to add my online musings to the chorus of those for whom the only answer is a Luddite return to pen and paper, telephone boxes and fax machines. Their argument brings to mind the Monty Python sketch: what did the digital economy ever do for us?

Many of us still regard its development with a rightful sense of wonder. It has transformed our lives and the way we do business.

A force for good

I believe that the internet is ultimately a force for good because it points you in the direction of what’s accurate, helpful and, ultimately, beneficial.

From our perspective, for example, the collective resources we make available to clients looking for pension advice, investment guidance and employee benefit consultancy are a click away. Our people are just a Teams or telephone call away, and these days any form-filling or fact-finding is an instant, un-Tippexed process. Remarkable doesn’t even begin to cover it for those of us who grew up in an era of pay-in books and counter clerks.

We’re delighted to be ‘Next Generation Thinking’ in our approach: marrying the latest technology with seasoned advisers, and making it simpler to unite employee benefits consultancy, workplace savings and individual financial advice.

I look forward to writing more on this theme in the coming weeks. There is a lot I can say on how cyberspace has transformed access to trusted information and experienced advisers, putting reliable, sound counsel at your fingertips..

And that’s because, used properly, the internet can create instant transparency, nailing online myths and scotching exaggerated claims.

Let me give you a humorous example…

Before smartphones could do all they can now, I was camping with friends in Dorset. One of our group is the self-styled know-it-all. Good-natured in intent, there is nothing he hasn’t got a line on.

His factoid of that summer evening was: if you rub a clove of garlic on the sole of your foot, it’s on your breath in five minutes.

It was the latest in a long line of claims, confidently declared and rarely challenged. So I did. Taking one sock off and setting my watch, I said I would check how long it would take for my nostrils to detect its unmistakable presence.

Needless to say, I’m still waiting. He wouldn’t have it, by the way. Conducting his own experiment in tandem and breathing on everyone in a vain attempt at claiming victory.

And if you're wondering... the evidence online now is that it can happen but by no means for everyone.

So when we’re looking for a definitive answer, we now all have our own, instant fact-checker. No need to resort to discarding footwear and peeling a clove.

For most of us, it’s still a bit of both: knowledge and tech know-how.

I firmly believe we can help mitigate uncertainty and doubt in a world where more important choices seem to multiply by the day, and navigate the financial services landscape, urban myths and all.

Posted by Steve Butler

Topics: financial wellbeing, Financial Education

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