Why I Ask You Instead of Googling the Answer

Some people have noticed – and commented on – the fact that sometimes I’ll ask if they know X when I could look it up myself.

They’re right – this is something I do. Routinely. Sometimes they respond with impatience, asking me if I know there’s a small mobile device I can use to access the sum total of human knowledge and that I have one in my pocket, or on the table in front of me, or maybe even in my hand. There’s even a snarky Web site for those who want to take the derision a little further.

So, am I that fucking lazy?

No, I’m well aware of the Internet. I know how search engines work. And if my goal was to get the answer as quickly as possible I’d certainly be better served by doing it myself.

Maybe I’m up to something else.

Ever since the Internet began taking hold in the mid-1990s there’s been a good bit of concern for how it was isolating us. Making us less social. Early on the problem was UseNet or perhaps chat rooms. Now it’s the way we all bury our faces in our phones. I’m sure you’ve seen smartphone zombie memes and photos. Like this:

smartphone zombies

Or this:

smartphone zombies

Or this:

smartphone zombies

Hell, there’s even a public art installation:

staring at phones statue

I spend way too much time staring at a screen. I spend less time interacting with others than I probably should.

So if we’re at the pub and I say “hey, anybody know where Mikel is playing year? He’s still in Turkey, right?” It would take me five seconds to find out that yes, he’s still at Trabzonspor.

But if I ask I get to interact. The question alone may start all kinds of conversations (best club players, Mourinho signings, how he played a different position for Nigeria, how amazing Chelsea’s history of holding midfielders has been, and so on). Google is a great source of information, but it wasn’t built to drive human connections. It doesn’t strengthen relationships. It doesn’t engage people and form communities.

We have to do that, and it doesn’t happen if we Google it ourselves.

I suspect a lot of folks ask their friends for this very reason, although maybe we aren’t even conscious of our deeper motives.

Anyway, sorry if I annoy you. But understand that you’re being complimented.


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