Monday, July 18, 2016

5 ways using Google can harm you…

Writing this makes me feel a bit hypocritical. A part of me lives on Google land. I am one of those who would have Google on speed dial, if I could. And that is why it has become blatantly obvious to me that this “having-information-at-my-fingertips” is harming me in more ways than one.

I can no longer lose myself in anything – No matter what I am doing, watching, eating, drinking, hearing, saying….I am forever taking mental notes like “must find out more about this later”. Occasionally, I can’t even wait for “later”. So I’d google a historical era while watching a period drama (and end up missing a few scenes). Or I’d keep my book aside and look up the origin of an unfamiliar word. And of course, when a TED Talk or TV interview fascinates me, instead of watching it till the end, I put it on pause and instantly google the speaker’s spouse.  Always the “spouse” first, in order to see who these charming people find charming (and subconsciously check out how “available” they are). Curiosity may not have killed the cat, but it has surely killed my ability to “be immersed”.

I am a scaredy-cat – My Google-dependence grew worse during my pregnancy. My search history looked something like this:
Should a pregnant woman eat prawns?
Should a pregnant woman sit on the floor?
Should a pregnant woman eat prawns while sitting on the floor?
OK, maybe not the last one. But you get the drift. I was neurotic, and let Google feed me morsels of fear and caution every minute (so, very little space in my tummy for prawns anyway). The point is, stories of deaths, diseases, accidents, lawsuits, heartbreaks, medical malpractices, recklessness, fear and hopelessness will find their way to you more easily than the positive stories. Medical websites (and “online” doctors) thrive on our curiosity, and the more we read, the more convinced we are that the harmless-looking rash on our skin is actually the first sign of leukaemia.

I don’t talk to people as much as I used to/would like to – What’s the point of having a real conversation when most of my questions are answered in the virtual world? You mean to say…you still call your mum to ask for recipes? And on moving to a new neighbourhood, do you ask your neighbour about the best local markets? Good for you. I want to be more like you. Seriously.  I hardly tap into the pool of knowledge and experience of people I know. I end up (and it sounds so stupid, even as I type this) getting information from face-less strangers in the virtual world than from people who love me, wish me well and would be more than happy to help.

I am lazy, boring and shallow – There was a time, when I used to write down reading notes. Excerpts, quotations, names of places and things that struck a chord. In the process, these things got etched in my memory…and I could often recite a verse or think of quotes and trivia, appropriate for the occasion. But then came Google. And I stopped making an effort, because I could “always look it up when I need to”.  I have stopped using the part of my brain that could store information and produce it on demand. This has also made me a sceptic. Every time I see someone post a picture on social media and caption it with a beautiful quote, my mind goes “Come on, you just looked it up because it would make you sound deep. It’s not like you actually read Oscar Wilde ever.”

I have lost my spontaneity and sense of wonder – Gone are the days when we just packed our bags and set off for a long drive to the country-side. With no planned destinations or stop-overs.  We’d discover little cafes, revel at the wild flowers that greeted us, walk into desolate memorial grounds and spend hours reading epitaphs. Now, I make sure I know when the wildflower season is….which cafes are the most popular…and which famous people were buried in those graves. I know this, and more, months before we actually go on that drive. Not surprising that I am not surprised at anything anymore. There is very little sense of wonder…in fact, there is this annoying feeling of déjà vu, which isn’t even déjà vu. It all seems familiar… not in any beautiful, mysterious way…but only because I have seen pictures of it on Google, when I was “looking up” things to see and do.

Dear Google, you have been a friend…but you have made me pay. And although I can’t think of any better place to say the classic “it’s not you…it’s me” phrase, I’ll just say that we’re both to blame. You have placed the world at my fingertips…and I did not resist the temptation.


Ani said...

What a lovely little post, Deblina. And how well you have summarized the often overlooked effects of Google on us! Right on all counts.

Gomathy S said...

Oh how I could relate to most of these, especially the first one when watching a drama !

Scribbler :) said...

Gomathy - Thank you :). Amazing how something so useful can also be so harmful.

Ani- Kind you are, as always :).