Sunday November 23, 2014

What did we do before Google?


Remember the days when you were watching a movie and one of the actors in it looked familiar, and the only way you could find out what you had seen them in before was by accessing your own memory banks?
Sometimes it took the entire movie to figure it out; sometimes it was days later when the answer finally came to you; either way, you missed parts of the movie working on that problem. You likely distracted everyone else around you as well, as you exclaimed, “Gah! Where have I seen that guy before?  Was he on ‘Another World’ at some point?”
Now, when you find yourself in that kind of a situation, you can make a mental note to just check the Internet later; or you can pause the movie, grab the computer, and do the search right there.
I do it all the time.
I think, if they had not invented the Internet Movie Database ( I would actually be insane at this moment in time.  I would have driven myself crazy wondering where I saw the guy on “The Help” before (answer: four years ago on the television show “Veronica Mars” — thank you, IMDB.”
Now I might be dating myself here, but back when I was growing up, we didn’t have the Internet. There was no Googling of anything going on.  If you wanted to know something, you looked in a book. Even in my early days of reporting, when reporters were not given anything fancy like email addresses or the Internet — or even computers capable of being anything other than a glorified typewriter — we looked in reference books kept in the newsroom to verify information.
So we survived without the Internet, without Google, for eons before.
But would we be able to get along without it now?
There are lots of ways to get information other than using the Internet — talking to people, and travelling to other parts of the world come to mind at the moment.
But the Internet has made finding people to talk to a lot easier.
And booking trips.
And doing some research ahead of time for trips.
It’s really incredible, actually, how much information is available at our fingertips — for good, for bad, or for no reason, there are tons of things we can find on the Internet.
But while the Internet can provide us with a lot, it can’t give us everything.
I can watch all the videos about Iceland I want to on YouTube, but to get the actual experience, I actually have to go there.
I can chat online with people I haven’t met, but typing out words to someone can’t replace their voice on the phone, or their face in person.
I can have thousands of “friends” on Facebook, but are they really friends if I never get to spend time with them? If I never get beyond “liking” their occasional funny status update?
So while I love the Internet and all the stuff I can learn on it, I am aware of its limitations.
My Facebook friends list will never replace the people I hang out with, or look to for support when the going gets rough.
I will still travel around the world, seeing with my own eyes what I’ve researched online.
And I’ll keep my phone ready for voice-to-voice conversations with family and friends, because a typed message just isn’t the same.
Really, I could live without some parts of the Internet. But not my IMDB. Or Google. I really don’t want to lose my mind.



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