When I hear a question asked aloud, I find myself struggling to not immediately seek the answer on the internet.
This conditioning involves the near reflexive motion towards my phone and, ultimately, to Google. What was the name of the guy who played Obi Wan Kenobi in the original Star Wars? Can a tomato plant survive over the winter? And, how long do you bake a frozen pizza? These are just some of the questions I have put to search engine in the past week. The answers to which are, of course, 1) Alec Guinness; 2) sadly no; and 3) about 15 minutes.
When simple queries such as these are Googled, the answers can take away the opportunity to have a conversation. There is a distinct pleasure in not being alone in your curiosity, when your question sparks a groan of displeasure from the person you are talking to. “I just watched A New Hope! I should know this!” or “He was in The Bridge on the River Kwai too, such a good film.” Just like that a conversation is born, one that would never have taken place if the original question was Googled.
I’m not saying whether or not technology is making us smarter or is dumbing us down – there are arguments to be made for both. I am simply saying we should not be afraid of the unknown. We should live through the questions and listen to other people’s answers. There is only one way to learn about the people around you; have conversations, learn about their viewpoints and have friendly debates.
Curiosity is one of the best traits humans have. Of course it’s only natural for us to seek out answers using the path of least resistance. But the next time you have a Googleable question, try asking someone else. You’ll end up being smarter for it and you might just make a friend along the way.