There is no doubt that the internet has changed the way we learn things – online courses, Youtube tutorials, how-to blogs, even e-books – the list is endless when it comes to the rich resources at our disposal. Whenever we’re stuck on something, for example for me – it may be some weird glitch on Excel; I’ll have a browse on Google and suddenly find myself scrolling through a random IT advice forum thread looking for an answer. And let’s not lie – Google is pretty good at its job and will (eventually), four times out of five, usually provide a helpful answer to your query.
However, before the vortex that is the internet, humans were our first port of call for learning things. Apprentices in jobs that require the mastery of the hands – would closely shadow a professional in that field, carefully watching them at work, taking notes and eventually imitating. Similarly, before the numerous recipe blogs and Youtube vlogs out there – recipes were passed down orally or learnt through the close observation of family members preparing a certain dish.
Humans have and always will be valuable to the learning process – and this doesn’t stop in the face of the internet. It’s why I get slightly annoyed when someone asks a simple question and others patronisingly say ‘Why don’t you Google it?!’. Yes, they could definitely do that – and perhaps they will or plan as a second step; but is it so wrong that their first port of call was to actually ask you, a fellow human for your opinion? I don’t think so.
Of course, don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some instances where this attitude is justified. For example, when it comes to educating ourselves on the struggles of marginalised communities, referring to digital resources can often be a more thoughtful approach. This is simply because when asking questions to members of these communities, many people ‘on the outside’ often do so with a sense of entitlement – they don’t owe you or have a duty to educate you. There is often also an emotional labour that comes with explaining the struggles you go through as a marginalised person that can often threaten your peace or happiness, especially if you have to do it repeatedly. For example, many black individuals have to repeatedly explain why non-black people should not use the n-word; explanations that often go on deaf ears and knowledge that you probably have just gotten from Google without involving a poor soul who is probably tired of having this conversation.
This aside though, and overall – I think we need to be find a way to tip the balance and bring humans back into the learning process once more. And by that I mean, asking a question to someone as your first port of call. At the moment, it feels like the balance is skewed and the internet always takes priority – people will trudge through several pages and PDFs for answers, if it doesn’t mean apparently inconveniencing another soul. (To be honest I can’t say I’m 100% innocent on that front!) Yet, the danger is even when it comes to matters dealing with life or death, people will apply this mentality – they, for example, don’t want to bother doctors or they want a quick fix answer (which has a high chance of being incorrect depending on the source), they’ll therefore go to Dr Google and hope for the best.
As a world bombarded by tech, how do we go about changing something so ingrained into our behaviour and normalise…well, just asking people? God knows.
All I’ll say is next time someone asks you something – accept that yes, it could be googled but they’ve asked you and probably for a reason. Don’t chide them and sneeringly say (or type), ‘you should just google it’ – give them some credit. If you don’t know – just apologise, admit you don’t have an answer (or point them to another person or resource) and move on. It’s not that hard, it’s nice and it’s free.