Reading the article “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” by Guy Billout, I am reminded of the many times that, years ago, I used to go to the library to do my research. I remember having to take several minutes to thumb through the card-catalog index as a child, and in later years having to use computers to gain access to the library’s catalog.
What is interesting about the use of the computer in the case of researching for books at a library is that, after picking finding out the library location had the book checked-in, I still had to physically walk around the library, look for the appropriate shelf (based off the Dewey Decimal System), and then scout out my book.
Google has changed all that. Typing a subject into the Google search engine means getting thousands, often millions, of search returns in less than a second or two. No fuss. No muss. No walking around a library. Oh—and little thinking is involved, too.
Now, let me say for the record—I love Google.com. Why, just before typing up this editorial, I used Google to type up a number of search terms which resulted in my reading several documents which otherwise would have required hours of search time at the library. But I will say this: Google, and a host of other search engine sites, have made searching for informative content so easy that a whole generation of people may never “need” to conduct research in the same relatively “laborious” fashion which the older generations once needed to.
But here’s the big problem. It’s not that finding information has become easier. It is that the way we think, as Billout suggests, has changed. And, frankly, I agree.
Is it that we have a fondness for finding information more easily, or is the real culprit behind “Google making us ‘stupid'” that we have, more grievously so, suffered from a quasi-degenerative “condition” where we no longer even THINK ABOUT researching beyond Google?
I have heard many a fellow student nearly sigh when told they HAD to conduct their research with books, journals, and magazines. Why? Perhaps because of the extra work associated with having to stop by the library for hours to look for needed material. Or, is it that Google has “trained” the mind to not even think about using “physical” media for researching?
It is true that, especially for the youngest generations, using internet search engines for research is virtually the sole research method practiced today. For older generations, the mind has been shaped by Google. Researching at a library is but a mere novelty for many people, with the exception of, perhaps, certain Graduate students and professional researchers, to name a few groups. Slowly, the brain is beginning to block out the idea of using more complicated research methods because the ease of Google has lured people away from the need to spend “excess” time perusing the aisles at a library to sort out information from thousands of pages.
A sign of being “dumb”? “Lazy”? Perhaps. I believe there is absolutely no shame in using Google for some, even most of our day-to-day research or plain-old web surfing. But, let’s not forget to exercise our minds and bodies with a little run to the library every now and then for research and leisure. A good old trip to the library never hurt anyone! Just don’t forget your library card. That is, if you have not forgotten what a library card is….
Billout, Guy. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic. July/August 2008. 10 May 2009. http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200807/google