Google Makes Me Smart

When we decide to search something on Google, are we really using are brains? That’s the real question. Is it really some type of monumental task or amazing accomplishment to suddenly pull up facts on Google that we may have not known, in hopes of garnering new information or impressing others? Are we the real heroes, or are we hiding behind Google?

In all honesty, I feel this way when I Google something. I’m always quick to jump onto my phone when someone has a question or when I want to know something. I’m even quicker to jump onto Google when I want to prove a point or prove myself right or someone else wrong. I’ll quickly search for what I am looking for and honestly get really excited when I turn out to be right. And, yes, of course, I get disappointed when Google proves me wrong about something, but I feel like part of me is still satisfied that I was able to get the information in the first place.

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From marketingdigest.com

Googling something isn’t being smart though. Sure, I feel pretty smart discovering information on Google and using it, but that doesn’t mean I actually am. If anything, Google is really just an all-knowing entity and I’m just a person going to it time and time again to take its information from it. It’s not a difficult process by any means, even if I or anybody might feel some type of sense of accomplishment when we Google and receive satisfying results of information. Carr even says on page 173 of The Shallows that “in Google’s world, which is the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the pensive stillness of deep reading or fuzzy indirection of contemplation… The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive – and better algorithms to steer the course of its thought.” This quote goes to further emphasize my point on the fact on one hand that, we as people, aren’t smart, but need Google to boost us in that way. The quote also points out something else, saying really that Googling, much like using the internet I general, doesn’t really give us the ability to be thoughtful, to contemplate. How could we, with that amount of information at our finger types. Like Carr tries to emphasize throughout his book, are brains and are thought process are really changed by the Internet.

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Everyday Curators

An obvious take-away from Carr’s The Shallows is that the internet has changed the way we are wired. The internet has rewired our brains and it seems there is no going back. Carr makes valid points when arguing that the internet could and might be our ruin. We are living and working in a technology driven culture but it is up to us to be mindful of all the power we truly have and use it effectively. It is crucial for us to not become slaves of technology and to use the Internet as one of the many tools in our toolbox instead. Of course, we are the beneficiaries of the Internet and the web.

Our phones are grenades – with them we have the power to blow something up. Not in the literal sense but in the sense that creates a ripple effect within a medium that reaches anyone worldwide. In chapter 8, The Church of Google, Carr poses the overarching question of whether Google is helping or hindering. On page 166 Carr states: “With writing on the screen, we’re still able to decode text quickly – we read, if anything, faster than ever – but we’re no longer guided toward a deep, personally constructed understanding of the text’s connotations.” I believe that, regardless of the influence of technology, we are always thinking about what we are reading, what we want to get from what we read, what we write and every little thing that comes along with our search and usage of the Internet. As a former Communications major I learned the obvious, that, as human beings – we are always communicating. From my personal experiences, every time I find myself on Google, what I am searching is strategic and purposeful.

In my Newswriting and Editing class, Victoria Reitano, came in to teach us about the latest and best Google search tools for newsgathering. All of the tools she showed us are a testament to Carr’s argument that Google is all about efficiency. However, I came to the conclusion that we are often curators instead of creators. In the traditional sense, a curator makes decisions about what objects to select, conducts research and shares that research with an audience. Whenever we find ourselves on Google we are finding content from existing sources and building a piece based on our knowledge and research. All of these aspects give us the power to effectively tailor a specific message to a specific audience whether it is ranging from a Tweet or an article. Below is a screenshot of the Google Trends homepage.

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This is not necessarily what people are talking about but simply what they are searching for. The feelings on the topic are unknown and with this tool we have the power to influence our audience as well as know what they are looking for. Carr’s views on the Internet may be justified but it is essential to have faith in our rewired brains.

With Great Power…

High School had a LOT of assignments that I perceived as busy work. What was my solution to busy work? Google! Another worksheet with information I have to fill in from the textbook? Google! In Calculus, I would ask the almighty Google for answers and it delivered. This is great! Homework is a breeze, a nice stroll in the park, no worries here! AP Euro had a lot of reading to do. Why would I read through all that when I can just take a quick detour down convenience lane and save the rest of my evening? But although classes seemed sunny, carefree, and easy, I didn’t realize I was living a LIE. Dark clouds were on the horizon.

Exam time. Having some slight difficulties…Where is your Google GOD now? Your savior has forsaken you! I had made a mistake that I am sure everyone has made at some point in their academic career. Filling in homework worksheets with Google is not learning. I was not learning how to find the derivative of a line when I googled every equation in my math homework. I was not learning the intricacies of European History when I googled brief definitions of names and terms to fill in on my homework packet.screen-shot-2017-02-21-at-5-28-54-pm

Learning the Process>Google the Answer…but it takes longer:(

Learning is a process. Most people need time to let information stew in their brains. Time to reflect on information and process is just as important as the contact time with material in class: homework helps achieve this reflection and processing. But the main point here: from my experience, it is human nature to seek the path of least resistance. The ‘easiest’ path is usually the path taken, even if it is a path that leads to inevitable problems (problems we may not foresee). I looked up answers to homework to save time in the present, even though I would need to understand the material to do well on exams in the future. My thoughts on this matter stem from Carr’s discussion on the Van Nimwegen study on page 214. The lack of a hand-holder for the barebones group was actually beneficial: sure, it was less taxing on the screen assisted group. They had less mental gymnastics to do. But the bare-bones group was the winner in the end, using “‘more focus, more direct an economical solutions, better strategies, and better imprinting of knowledge’” (Carr 215).

The point I want to make is that Google is a wonderful tool to aid in learning. If I wanted to learn anything at all right now, I’m sure I could Google it and be on my way. But like most tools, it can be seriously misused. In spoon feeding so much information at such a rapid pace, the process of learning is at risk. I must be vigilant in observing how my use of Google and other technology impacts my learning. Google should be used as an asset to learning, not as a crutch for homework. With great power… comes great responsibility!