The internet has changed the way we look and feel about the world. For many years to come we’re still going to be trying to understand all the ways it’s impacting the way we think. This online article entitled,”Google has made our memories lazy,” had some interesting points on this idea;
The rise of Google has damaged our memories by changing the way we learn and remember information, according to a study. Having practically all the information we could ever need at our fingertips has caused us to subconsciously not store away as much data, scientists claim.
For instance, we forget things we are confident we can find online, while we are more likely to remember things we think are unavailable online.
Furthermore, we are better able to remember where to find something on the internet than we are at remembering the information itself.
I have seen this kind of thing happening to myself. While checking in on Facebook, Reddit, and Twitter I see hundreds of random images every week; some of them funny, some interesting, some scary, but most of them showing new things, places, and people I would never meet in my day to day life. From these images I’m gathering a lot of visual information and I feel like I’m learning and understanding lots of new and exciting things.
I would argue that this is an example of how the web, while helpful in sharing information, is not a substitute for experience. Much like the article I posted above which states,”we are better able to remember where to find something on the internet than we are at remembering the information itself” I have found I’m better at remembering only certain bits of information about a person or place I have yet to see, and not the person or place itself ( because I have not experienced it outside of a computer screen ).
This is where I see a potential problem; a virtual memory cannot compare to an authentic one.
Say my beautiful girlfriend has a rare illness and has to undergo surgery. I can Google the illness, research what it’s all about, the symptoms, the possible causes of it, and what surgery might entail. I can therefor say,”I am informed on this illness.”
What I won’t experience from this search is the reality of the illness; the waking up at 4 in the morning because of the excruciating migraines, the waiting in the doctor’s office to hear test results, the time and energy spent filling out paperwork, the fears in the night of it recurring, and the lingering pain and physical therapy that follows the operation in order to stop it. Learning about the illness in great detail is not a substitute for having the illness.
When I was growing up running around my hometown I remember realizing this kind of thing for myself. How different it was to look up a running route online versus the reality of actually running it. Feeling every step, struggling up every hill, and enjoying the beauty of the overlooks as you crest them.
There is a tremendous difference between the two, and as we march steadily into more integration between the virtual and the real we will see this line become blurred more and more.
I’m a little worried for the next generation; they are growing up with this stuff. What kind of world are we in for when every kid on the block has Siri in their pocket? If we are able to understand the difference between information and experience then we won’t be looking at a future full of smart phones and dumb people.