Learn to Google, or I’ll do it for you!

Commenter Gnatalby linked to this application over at Shakesville yesterday, and I have to say, I am in love. My “learn to google” posts have long been my secret favourite kind of rant– I just get to indulge in so much self-righteousness! Alas, it can be a little tough to fine appropriate targets for my rage (post people are at least smart enough to do a cursory google search before spouting off), but you can bet, the next time I have the chance, I’ll leap on it!

You think there are a billion Eskimo words for snow? Let me google that for you.

Suspicious of the flag Obama flew while in Ohio? Let me google that for you!

Not sure of the difference between “thy” and “thine”? I’ll google that for you, too!

And you don’t even have to look hard at half of those results– for the “Eskimo” words one, you don’t even have to click any of the links to learn it’s rubbish, since it’s in the site summary of the second result!

Actually, if I can get a bit serious for a moment, this is something that really does bother me. I have grown up with the internet (literally– my parents, as computer scientists, were using email a decade before I was born) and it deeply saddens me how accustomed we have become to the idea that oh, of course people will be spouting rubbish, it’s the internet, why would anyone try to have a rational conversation on the internet? I always want to yell back, because that’s what it’s for!

The internet isn’t for porn. (That link is SFW. Mostly.) It’s not for urban legends and trolls and 4chan. It is an entirely new communication system whose implications I don’t think we’re really going to see for another generation. Guys, we can search books. Is that not revolutionary? I was studying over the weekend, and I had a question, and I knew the answer was somewhere in my textbook because I remembered reading it before. So I thought to myself, “ctrl f!” I didn’t think, “haha, wouldn’t it be great if I could search for it?” I literally thought the command, just as I would have if I had typed it. And then I looked at my open book in frustration for a good ten seconds before I sighed and went hunting around the index. If I’d had an ebook copy of the textbook (which I do for my other class), half an hour of rummaging through two hundred pages of content, chasing every vague lead? I could have done it in seconds.

And that’s just for a book. What if I want to know about the history of Muslim Spain? Well, this morning I did a couple google searches for broad terms like “muslim spain history,” opened all the promising results in new windows, read through them, did some new searches with more specific terms like “women muslim spain caliphate era” and so on. I had probably millions of pages available to me. True, a lot of them were blurbs for books or papers that I didn’t have full access to, but I do now know of their existence, despite the fact that none of their titles contain my keywords, because they were cited in the content that was available for free. I have no idea how people did research, let alone open-ended curiosity-driven research, before the internet, let alone before computers. All I can figure is that it involved a whole lot of inefficient wandering around libraries.

And I’m not even touching on Wikipedia, and blogs, and email. We can do so much that would have seemed impossible, even laughable, when my parents were my age. There are unimaginable quantities of information available, far more than any one mind could assimilate. My family keeps a laptop in the kitchen specifically so that any time one of us asks, “I wonder what’s in yogurt?” we can google it, and I love it. I love having so much knowledge out there, being able to talk to so many people. And I am in awe of it.

Which is why I just don’t understand people who treat the net as something trivial, something unworthy of respect. A place where you can lounge around in your dirty, faded grammar and old ideas, and it doesn’t matter because lowest common denominator, lol!

I don’t mean that everything has to be formal. Far from it! Half of what’s so valuable is going on in informal conversations, but the key is that they are conversations. The internet is a great resource and it should be to be used to the fullest. The assumption should be that people on the internet are looking to learn something, to connect with people or the world in a new way. And I sincerely believe that something new and amazing is being born, and that it’s by “learning to internet” that we can learn the most about ourselves. So it saddens me to see people who don’t even seem to be trying, people who parrot random chain mails and refuse to consider any arguments, people who go trolling but leave all their commas at home, people who laugh at those who are trying to expand themselves. Seriously, folks. Learn to google. You might learn something.

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3 Responses to Learn to Google, or I’ll do it for you!

  1. Satsuma says:

    Learn to google, but still learn English grammar.
    Wikipedia often has glaring inaccuracies, and articles no longer have editors either. So caveat emptor!

  2. eloriane says:

    Actually, that’s one of the coolest things about learning on the internet– you have to constantly evaluate and re-evaluate what you know and where you learned it. So you can start with wikipedia, but then follow the links of the citations, and try to find other, more specific sites, and put it all together.

    Books, even widely-used textbooks, can be hugely inaccurate as well, but nobody ever thinks to question them. Finding things online requires active, rather than passive, learning, and a strongly inquisitive nature.

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