I’ve been on the Internet for about 20 years by now. I’m talking about the Internet as most know it.
If you count the early days before the Web (yes, the Internet existed before the World Wide Web and its fancy pointy-clickiness), I’m going on 25 years. In about 1990 or so I played around with some searches that were probably using Gopher or WAIS. I didn’t take it seriously.
Back then we were being told in IT classes that email and other online curiosities were a distraction for office nitwits of the sort who were always offering free puppies and baked goods at the end of cube row H7. It was largely dismissed by my CIS instructor as toy for the addle-minded.
He was wrong in many ways, but right in some others.
Anyway, back then no one – no one — could have foreseen that the janky text-based interface we stared at on a glowing, amber terminal would displace real life itself. The Internet is where many of us live most of the time now. I’ve written elsewhere about how our digital self is the authoritative “us” now. If you don’t have an online footprint, there’s something wrong with you, or maybe you don’t really exist. That’s what even the most old-fashioned among us tend to think.
But see, the way it’s supposed to work is this: We’re supposed to interact online. As people. Person-to-person.
It’s supposed to support, not replace, social interaction.
So when I see someone post a question in an online forum that could be an invite to conversation — spontaneous, interactive, human conversation — only to be quickly told to “Google it,” flames of rage erupt on my brow. And from my ears.
See, most people know about Google. And it’s true sometimes people ask dumb questions in forums. That’s not what I’m talking about. If someone asks the main Zip code for Elmira, New York in an online forum, they deserve a shellacking. And they usually get it.
But there are other — many other — instances where the original post is a thinly-veiled invitation to discuss the matter at hand. Ask Google a question about how two different schools of architecture differ and get a flood of information from sources all over the world, and usually no authoritative consensus. Ask the same question in an online forum full of enthusiasts, and you have a conversation on your hands. An interesting one, if they let it live. Wow! Civilization! How novel!
However, there are always those who immediately say “Why don’t you Google it?”
So to those whose first response is a reflexive “Why don’t you Google it?” I ask in turn: “Why don’t you Google my ass?”
And in a similar vein, to those in the habit of saying “Google is your friend,” I say “I thought you were my friend.”
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Did you know there was a world before cell phones and Google? Like, back in 1957? That’s when my novel takes place. Pick it up at Eye of the Diamond-T. Or you can just Google it.