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Shrinking the web

The internet can be a daunting place and it's easy to see why some simply opt out of the onslaught of the Information Age. However, you don't have to. Sure, everybody knows about Facebook and Twitter and where to go for breaking news, sports scores and salacious gossip, but if you want to be the person tweeting the links instead of clicking on them, these are the sites you need to bookmark to stay informed.

For Smart Gossip and Analysis -- jezebel.com

Forget bitchy sites that make you feel bad about yourself, Jezebel is a site that's FOR women, in every sense of the word. Beauty, sex, entertainment and commentary with a feminist tone, Jezebel will feed you the gossip you desire while completely undermining it and reminding you what's important. This is a site that lets you know it's cool to love celebrities and coo over dresses, but also nourishes your mind will well-written pop culture pieces.

For Inspiration -- pinterest.com

The latest social network hybrid, Pinterest has become the It site of 2012. It works by allowing you to "pin" images to a digital board and share this content with your followers. You can sort your boards by category, and install an app in your internet browser that allows for easier pinning. Great if you're looking for wedding inspiration or fashion and beauty ideas. Those who adore the aesthetic side of life will love the gorgeous pics.

For Mortification -- awkwardfamilyphotos.com

AFP works simply because everybody can relate to it. Exactly what the URL describes, this is a collection of awkward family photos; those pictures that everybody has in a shoebox somewhere displayed for the world to see. You can submit your own photos in the hopes of getting featured, or simply laugh at the cringe-worthy pics of humans just being humans. A good reminder of how real life is not like a glossy photo spread, if you ever needed such a thing.

For Beauty -- thebeautydepartment.com

We're bombarded with beauty news, product reviews and celebrity pictures from magazines, newspapers and the web daily, and that's why this LA based site is so interesting. Set up by The Hills star Lauren Conrad, it's not so much "buy this and you'll look amazing!", but a compilation of inspiration shots and well explained, easy to follow hair, nails and make-up How Tos. It's cool, hip, has a crafty edge and is gorgeous to look at.

For Irish Interest -- broadsheet.ie

Updated every 15 minutes during office hours, Broadsheet is a revelation. A mix of news, Internet memes and funny videos, satire and political commentary, Broadsheet doesn't strive to be objective, but to be current and engaging. A must-read for the Irish at home and abroad, it's very distinctly of Eire, but also condenses the wide reach of the web.

For LOLZ -- buzzfeed.com

A compilation of the Internet's funniest stuff, BuzzFeed collects the most hilarious memes, lists, tweets, pics and videos and arranges them in a way that's accessible. For example, if you hadn't got a clue when everybody was banging on about 'Feminist Ryan Gosling', a quick search here would tell you everything. If it's created a buzz, it's on BuzzFeed.

For Fashion -- redcar pet-fashionawards.com

"Fashion" can seem like something elitist to those who aren't in the know, but this site is accessible and quite an education. A collection of shots of what celebs are wearing with comparative catwalk images, opinions and polls, it will have you developing a keen fashion eye, and in no time at all you'll be able to tell your Rodarte from your Roksanda Illincic.

For Human Interest -- postsecret.com

The largest ad-free blog in the world, PostSecret started small and soon dominated the web, and if you ever want to be reassured of the human condition, a weekly visit is a must. A community arts project in which people mail their "secrets" to creator Frank Warren on a homemade postcard, the stories shared are a reminder of our own vulnerability and a tonic when compared to other aspects of the net.

For How The Other Half Live -- goop.com

Gwyneth Paltrow gets quite a lot of flack for her lifestyle site and weekly newsletter, but it really is quite fascinating.

Recipes and travel guides are blended with a behind-the -scenes peek into an A-list actress's world. Sure, she can be sanctimonious and holier-than-thou at times, but her newsletters are warm, inviting and actually pretty useful too.