We’ve picked up a new habit in society, with 7 out of 10 people now owning a smartphone and a third of the UK population using tablets; net-savvy people can now find answers to just about anyth
We’ve picked up a new habit in society, with 7 out of 10 people now owning a smartphone and a third of the UK population using tablets; net-savvy people can now find answers to just about anything in seconds. Whenever anyone, anywhere, has a problem, the first (and only) solution is to search for an answer on an Internet search engine.
A massive change like this in the world makes it difficult to ignore the implications it brings with it. No more will people wonder how to solve something, instead they refer to solutions created by someone else. Where’s the excitement of discovery and innovative thinking in this path? How likely is it that you’ll come to your own resolution to a problem if you read someone else’s first?
We’ve already seen this destroy the quintessential pub quiz as people flood to the toilets to find answers to questions where the prize is normally a round of free drinks. But how long will it be before it destroys creativity and imagination because children are ‘googling’ whether Santa Claus exists or whether toys can actually come to life?
I’m not saying that we should stop searching for information online. There is an enormous wealth of information and it would be incredibly foolish to ignore it completely. After all it’s helped me write this article and I’m sure it’s helped you out with small everyday problems like “what times the next train” and “how do I tie a tie.”
It’s the more complicated problems that we should all try and solve ourselves first, even if we struggle with it a bit, the rewarding feeling we get afterwards makes the struggle worthwhile. It’s not very rewarding picking up your phone and typing a question into it.
A slave to technology
With emails, tweets, chats, and status updates now vying for our brain space, it’s no wonder that young people are seen as slaves to technology. A study of college students in America found that 84 per cent get instant messages, Facebook updates, texts or other interruptions at least once in any given hour; 19 per cent get them at least six times every hour. And for 12 per cent, the interruptions occur so often that they’ve lost count.
On average, according to Android app “Locket” who monitored 150,000 users, people usually check their phones around 110 times a day, with some users unlocking their devices up to 900 times over the course of a day.
These kind of incessant distractions don’t bode well for the brain. The price of finding information in seconds is a loss of depth in our thinking, which may result in a younger generation that becomes less and less capable of thinking for themself. Defenders of Google say it doesn’t restrict people’s brains but frees them up for more important thinking. They see Google and other Internet search engines as a sort of auxiliary memory that frees your mind for sophisticated analysis and problem-solving rather than remembering facts and figures. Understandably someone who can memorise the periodic table might not necessarily be able to create life-changing formulas.
Is it all Google’s fault?
Google might not be completely to blame though; it might be a growing reliance on the computer keyboard that is affecting people’s memorisation skills. It has been proven that the best way to retain information is to write out information in longhand because it activates a tactile connection between the words and the brain that is skipped by typing.
Yes, a dependency on Google for every question that arises or arises over and over will result in your memory becoming weak since you depend on it to find the answer each time you need it rather than remembering it. But ‘Googling’ is like anything – it has its uses and its flaws. It’s better to look something up if you’re unsure rather than just guessing. We shouldn’t look down on people for utilising it; we should be teaching them how to determine the validity and usefulness of the sources provided by search engines.
From personal experience, one of the first things we were told at University was to not rely on ‘googled’ sources like Wikipedia to provide valid information for assignments. However, as an English student, who is constantly looking to extend my vocabulary, Google has had its uses in understanding and interpreting words to strengthen my writing. So with a little moderation, it can actually be a useful tool.
Hanging on to creativity
As much as Google and other search engines might be used as a crutch nowadays, it is refreshing to see that all parents aren’t taking the ‘lazy’ route out of spending time with their children by passing them a tablet or smartphone to keep them ‘entertained.’
A couple in the US state of Kansas have been staging absurd scenes in their home using their children’s plastic dinosaurs. The scenes include the dinosaurs raiding the sweet jar, making a mess in the kitchen and spraying graffiti. The parents say: “We were all tired through the day after being up all night and we found ourselves putting the kids in front of the TV and not engaging in the way we wanted to be with them.”
Ironically, the parent’s activities have become an Internet sensation, with over 250,000 ‘likes’ on their Facebook page and many other families re-creating the mystery and creativity for their children. So it would seem we aren’t all zombie-like creatures with a hunger for technology.
What do you think? Share your experiences with Google in the comments section below.