Technology: The Google Generation

prehistoric googling, index, library

It was the dawning of a new era.  It was the beginning of an abundance of information made readily available and a way to stay connected, known as the World Wide Web.

I recall my grandfather telling me the traditional stories that so many of us have heard through first person accounts or in a tale in a movie, magazine or newspaper article.  “I remember back in the day when I had to walk five miles to get to school with a small coat in the middle of winter.  I used to read my books by candlelight with the smallest gust of wind putting out the flame.  You young people have no idea how easy you have it.”  If having school buses and electricity made our great grandfathers shake their heads imagine what they would think of our life now!

Technology has advanced us in so many ways it’s almost a given that in a group of people if a question arises someone will jump on their cell phone and find the answer.  (You know those people)

Technology has especially advanced us in regards to learning.  I want to take a closer look at the causes and effects of this new generation.  The new ‘tools’ available to aid us in our search for information.  The new Google generation, the cut and paste generation and I don’t mean with scissors and glue.

Do you remember the library, the information center?  Do you recall the journey that you had to take to prepare for a paper or thesis?  The library was the one reliable source that you could go to, without doubt and retrieve that missing piece of information to make a final statement on an essay golden!

I can recall rifling through the index cards and searching through shelves trying to remember the order of the alphabet so that I could correctly locate the source I was searching for.  Many people enjoy rummaging through old, used bookstores for hidden gems but it used to be mandatory through school, starting at the elementary level.  Many people nowadays would not even know where to begin if placed in a library of times gone by.

I can recall the smell of the books, the pleasure of a good find.  The tangible effect and how good it made you feel to look at the final product with such a sense of accomplishment, if not exhaustion from all of the running around and searching.  You had to know where to look and what you were searching for.  You did not just ‘Stumble Upon’ things.  We aroused so many sensations along the way.  It makes me wonder what kind of effect this could have on our future generations.

Now we just flip open our laptops, type in a word and find what we are searching for and if we happen to make a spelling mistake no worries it will be corrected for you.  No longer is the source of research ideas created in your mind, it is a simple stoke of a key into a search engine.  There you will find an abundance of information and project ideas.  Although I find extreme value in modern day technology and search engines, operating in this way on an academic level has almost completely removed the odds of creating something unique and original.

When I was in school the biggest concern for teachers in regards to plagiarism was not properly citing a quote from a book.  Now there are entire research assignments, for example, available for people to claim as their own online.  Even other peoples poems or stories!

The problem is availability.  People often lose sight of the small bud of original idea and thought that was attempting to blossom by not allowing time to foster their own creativity.  Instead many lean on the faster, more efficient but less creativity building method known as the search engine.

Students of the past used to get together and research, read, talk and communicate in person.  Now often when students work ‘together’ files are shared with one another to edit and create other ideas and it may not even be necessary to sit down with one another before submitting the paper.  This is so practical and efficient but what of the social aspect?  What about the ability to work effectively together, the time to forge friendships over late night popcorn and buttery notes?

I have had conversations with people that I’ve met online.  We have researched, emailed and communicated with in regards to a project, looking forward to exploring in depth, in person their knowledge on the topic only to find that the person has strong assembly skills and internet skimming abilities but let down by the depth of information made available by them through conversation.

I find even in myself a confidence in writing but when asked to articulate the same thoughts my oral skills are not comparable.

Is this due to my to my increased time spent online and using written forms of communication and expression versus fifteen years ago when if I wanted to communicate with someone it was done orally or through letter writing that was extremely lagging in comparison to the quick answers of today?

Technology has opened up a fountain of information to us.  We can attain information so quickly, things that would have taken weeks to acquire years ago.

That being said, I recall an interesting story that I heard not too long ago of a person that is learned and accredited intentionally going onto Wikipedia (as a writing contributor!) to put incorrect information to see how long this would take to get corrected, sometimes taking up to eight months.  This is a prime example of people trusting sources as fact when they may not even have the factual information.

I can’t help but feel that we are learning a lot more about a few things and there is far less depth to the things that we take time to know.  People seem to not care to know all that there is to know about a subject anymore.  I want to equate a depth of knowledge with a depth of over all character.

Technology is changing the way that we communicate, operate, think and socialize.  It is also changing our priorities.  These technologies are to help make our lives more efficient, easier, to give us freedom of time.

We want answers now, instant gratification.  The top five listed options available on Google are often enough choices for most to know everything that they care to know about a subject.  We appear to trust web sites as fact but trust and depend less on one another.

Technology and social media make it so that I now ‘know’ so many people.  I hear of what people ate for dinner and what they bought at the mall, how they spent their weekend (and I also share this type of information) but we get far less substance.

Gone are the days of entering libraries, the rustling through book shelves, the checking out of books and the responsibilities that come with that, the lessons to be learned from this type of action.  Gone are the days of meeting people along the way, sharing a chat or a smile.  People are plugged into technology, heads down in their phones and readers.  People aren’t taking the time, making the time.

The one thing that remains consistent though is the desire for knowledge.

Let me leave you with this.

The big question is will the superficiality and lack of depth of the things learned in the new Google generation, less time taken, create a more instant gratifying, self reliable, socially isolated way of existing?

Will this new and more efficient way of existing create more time for us to spend with the very things we now tend to value, like, technology?

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48 comments

  1. katmicari

    I think we need to learn to harness technology in ways that are beneficial for society, rather than addictive. For those that work day jobs, there is no reason for them to take up the hours of the day that they do (especially as most people waste time online, as I’m doing right now in my last week working a “real” job.) So shouldn’t we just cut out the b.s. and work shorter but more productive days for the same pay, and then shouldn’t our society pressure and enable and encourage us to spend those free hours in learning, or creating for the sake of creating (like forming small musical ensembles), or getting out in nature, or volunteering in our communities, instead of going home and turning on the latest reality TV show?

  2. createdbyrcw

    You want to be even more depressed? Visit a library today and see how many of the reference books have been replaced with computer monitors.
    Scrolls brought about the death of oral history and the skills of memorizing stories. Books brought on the death of scrolls. Printing democratized knowledge (which we turned into fashion, sports, celebrity and porn magazines). Electronica is slowly bringing on the death of books. (Rumour also has it, video killed the radio star.)
    And at each stage, someone’s grandfather complained about how the kids of the day had it easier than he did–give or take a plague.
    Thanks for the post…always insightful reading…Randy

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      Hi Randy.

      Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

      I thought it was time for a 1000+ word post.

      Yes, I know about the libraries, most people are in the libraries now a days to use the computers and for free internet access and videos.

      Ah, the ways of the world, at least we have scrolls back, my blog has an infinite scroll feature! 😉

      Cheers,
      Jennifer

  3. Sahm King

    I think you’re right. People don’t care. But I think that’s always been the case with humanity. People live in a bubble, a confluence of delusions that allow them to deal with the reality of the world around them. That there is less depth to people’s knowledge is not a product born of the internet; it’s a product born of people’s unwillingness, in general, to actually strike out and learn new things to begin with. In my opinion. The Google generation isn’t doing anything different than prior generations. They just have the ability to do the same exact thing faster. People of a mind not to research and fact check, prior to the advent of the internet, probably wouldn’t have bothered with a library or newspaper. Today, they can find anything to back up their beliefs. This isn’t a condition of the existence of the internet; it’d be the same if someone yesterday simply handed them a book that backed up their beliefs.

    Instant gratification, technology at our fingertips, I don’t believe those are the problems. They’re solutions to real world problems. Similar questions arose with the advent of the scroll, the advent of the book, and then the printing press, which took book production to a whole new level. Once people get easier access to information, it’s up to them to practice due diligence, but most people won’t. People like to take things at face value. It’s easier. It stirs the pot less. Instead of asking questions and finding the answers, regardless of the medium, the inherent weakness of people is the unwillingness to ask and and consider various stances in the first place. The internet only means we can do the same faster.

    I researched the National Defense Authorization Act for about 3 weeks before I released an article on my site concerning the subject. It was all on the internet. It was just as hard to fact check on the internet as it is to research in a library. Why? Because I’ve learned not to rely on any source, even media sources, at first glance. People think it’s easy because they often go with the first answer they find. I’m sure you’ve seen articles relating to people’s search patterns on the internet, how most often, people don’t go beyond the first 3 pages of search results. People want the easy answers, especially if the easy answers suit a preconceived notion.

    I do agree that people will likely start spending more and more time with their gadgets, excepting the occurrence of a push-back against technologies initiated by the authoritarian pushes of various governments from around the world who seek to infiltrate those technologies. But, technology, so long as the world is stable, will continue to advance; access to information will become faster and faster; and that information will become less and less reliable; and people will become lazier and lazier.

    The big question: I don’t believe the particular existence you mention is ultimately gratifying. People will succumb to outright boredom at some point. I don’t think it will go that direction. If it does, let it be soon, because the noise of the parties around here is pretty deafening.

    I think that people will spend more time with the technology, especially if it’s new, but, over time, as the technology becomes outdated, and these modes continue being the norm, I think the natural social tendencies of humanity will resurface. Until such a time as a new and better technology comes out that makes things even faster and more efficient.

    Excellent study, Jennifer. You raise some relevant questions, thinks that are asked but maybe are not wholly considered whenever new technology arises.

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      Thank you for the re blog.

      This may sound trivial but these changes have severely effected the way that we use our senses.
      These changes can and have led to negative side effects to the senses, health, wealth, experiential, relational and emotional well being of humanity already.

      Have you read much about synaesthesia?

      It’s really quite fascinating.

      Jennifer

      • Sahm King

        It doesn’t sound trivial in the least bit.

        I haven’t read up on synaesthesia, I shall have to look into that, most definitely.

  4. NJBiblio

    Great points. It is a fine line that we tread when sing this technology for research. Unfortunately with information so readily available the “hard work” of research has gone the way of the dodo. It also reinforces the instant gratification mindset of many students today which then becomes a constant battle as an educator to combat. We’ll never go back to the glory days of the card catalogs and microfiche in libraries but this doesn’t mean that those types of resources are not available digitally either. The key is making sure that student researchers are aware of and taught the proper use of deeper web resources like databases and electronic journals. Too often they think that Google (mistaken way too often as a source in itself) and Wikipedia are the end all be all of information. This thinking is part of why I’m going gray so fast!!

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      I bet! I’m sure this will get easier as the younger ones are starting their education with smart boards and technology implemented right from kindergarten.
      I love technology and its advances don’t get me wrong. The fountain of information when put to good use is an advancing tool indeed.
      The negative social effects that have come from it are concerning.

      • NJBiblio

        You got it! We have to teach the proper use of each tool and when they are appropriate more than anything.

        Unfortunately I am of the same mindset that the continuing social impacts are devastating. I see how great tools like social media and even websites in general are trending toward the lowest common denominator and its frightening how many people like staying there, not even striving to push to the next level.

  5. toniandrukaitisToni

    I tend to agree about technology, but like all good things, good things in moderation is important. I love being able to Google something in an instant and use it for my research. I will always need to be creative, write, paint, craft, bake. But, what I do see, is the trend of young people who are attached to their devices during family dinners, Tweeting at events instead of participating, and having the need to click away 24/7. That may be the downfall of our social society. Hope not!

  6. bamauthor

    Only time will answer your question. It was so much more work for those of us who went to college and graduate school in the 60’s and 70’s, but you had your hands on all the information as you processed and produced it. Now we have to rely on technology to do a lot of that work for us. It is quicker, but is it better!

  7. wantonwordflirt

    The reference section in my library has ceased to exist. I mourn the loss of true research by grade school students. I am not anti-technology by any means, but certainly there were valid skills – including social skills – to be learned by “old school” research and group projects. I feel old.

  8. raimo2

    Thought provoking indeed. I will be pondering your statement, “The one thing that remains consistent though is the desire for knowledge.”, for a long time, wondering if that should read, “… the desire for understanding”. Incidentally, though not actually a grandfather (one can always hope, but that’s something out of my hands), I am of a grandfatherly age, and I can assure you that not everything was better in the past. Precious little was, in fact, including social skills, though admittedly, interaction with the young lady in the reference library some decades ago was far more interesting than the electronic equivalent.

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      Great perspective. I’m sure there are many things of the past that were not ‘desirable’.
      Both knowledge and understanding could both fit in quite well.
      Thank you for taking the time to comment and share your ‘grandfatherly’ views 😉
      Cheers,
      Jennifer

  9. Zenobia

    When we ‘google’ something, it’s usually easy to get a response that directly answers our query. Sometimes, this is a good thing as it is less time consuming.
    On the other hand, when looking for information in a book (or ten books, as the case may be), we happen across other information that may be just as useful, or add something unique to our writing; our perspective. Personally speaking, this is one of the big drawbacks of internet research.

  10. Lynne

    Excellent article, Jennifer! I, too, worry about some of the effects of technology- oral communication skills, face to face, meaningful conversations. As a parent, I see my adult children’s eyes constantly on their phone screens. As a grandmother, my grandchild’s eyes and hands are on the I Pad. Are we having meaningful conversations anymore? As a teacher, I have seen the power of books, author studies, discussions, and story times, captivate even today’s tech savy children. It’s about balance. I believe we have to turn the gadgets “off” and connect, face to face with one another. Particularly, in our homes with our children. Talk to one another, share books, oral stories, rhymes, play together.

  11. 1WriteWay

    Interesting post, Jennifer. While I do love technology and I spent a lot of time on the internet, I do worry about the impact on young people. Technology can be wonderful, but it’s all in how you use it. Seeing teen-agers walk around like zombies, staring at a little screen, oblivious to the world around them (and the pedestrian that practically has to play hop-scotch to avoid colliding with them) … that is truly unnerving. I don’t blame technology as much as the idea that we want to have our information, our entertainment now, this very minute. No delayed gratification. Ever. Maybe it’s my age, maybe I’m too old of a generation, but I feel there a time and place for technology, but in our society there are no boundaries. And much of the technology that is being lauded (Google Glasses) are actually just gadgets that don’t enrich anyone’s life, aside from the first 15 minutes of newness.

    That said, if it weren’t for technology and the internet, I probably wouldn’t be writing now. Or, at least, I would be stuck writing alone, very alone. I’m an introvert and actually I like being an introvert, but it does mean that I have very few close friends, that I avoid groups, that I enjoy being alone (physically) more than I enjoy being with people. But the internet has opened a new world for me of fellow writers and bloggers that I never would have met otherwise. There’s a big beautiful world out there that I can’t access except through the internet. Really, I can’t afford to go to Latvia and, even if I did, I can’t guarantee that I would meet Linda, the Irish ESL teacher. But I met her through the blogosphere and knowing her has enriched my life. She is just one of many, many examples (include yourself here ;)).

    And that said, I am so relieved that my grandniece and grandnephews love to read books (yup, the kind made of paper and board) and are encouraged to do so by their parents. We don’t need to lose our libraries. I practically lived in my town’s library when I was growing up. Well, I’m starting to digress. Thanks for the post, Jennifer!

    • Jennifer Writings of a Mrs

      I totally agree with you. I am in no way anti technology, the amount of medical breakthroughs, families kept together through distance with the use of technology, the access to instant information is fantastic.
      I use technology more in a day than I probably should 😉
      I can see how it helps people socialize that may other wise not feel comfortable doing so. But there is something to be said about learning these personal skills as well…
      Instant gratifying society, you said it! Everything from technology, to money and possessions.
      Many countries are in some serious debt due to instant gratification and allowing people to live well over their means…. I won’t get started on economics..
      People even email me asking how I did ‘it’, what is my trick etc. It’s called hard work, HOURS per day of intensive blogging, commenting, writing, reading, posting, formatting, collaborating, learning how to operate Word Press (which I still do not fully understand)
      There is no quick fix.
      But there is hope that we will learn the time and place for technology.

      • 1WriteWay

        Yup, I think we can co-exist with technology but we need to control it, not the other way around. I think the mere effort of your post helps in that it prompts people to think about their usage and maybe make some changes, like read a book to your cat (I don’t have kids ;))

  12. djmatticus

    As long as we still have that quest for knowledge I think we will be okay. It’s when we no longer even search for answers (from any source) because our technology does all our thinking for us that I worry about.

  13. cheesyplinky

    Interesting article. 🙂 I’m blessed that I’ve experienced the transition from the ‘manual’ to ‘digital’ era. I’ve experienced using our school libraries and eventually change to the use Google to look for information. I know everything has changed but I value what experiences I’ve got from those.

  14. Ranting Crow

    There isn’t time. More technology and we spend less time together. No where in the world is that a good thing.
    You would think we have time to spare, but we do not. We even have even less time than before the mobiles and or computers.
    And instead of learning we just copy and paste into our devices,. technology has become our live instead of a live with technology.
    It is simply that we use our knowledge in the wrong ways.
    Just my two cents.

  15. Vef Foundation

    With digital technology I’m always skimming over things because there is such a vast quantity of information to consume. Yes consume, how I feel about this subject .. and I say quantity not quality, because over 90% of what I find on the World Wide Web is absolute rubbish and a complete waste if time. I’d like to pause awhile and read more carefully your wonderful blog post as I’m duly aware of it’s relevance. There is so much I could say in response on this subject but I’ll be brief, isn’t that what’s required on the Internet? Perhaps I could simplify my comment by telling of a recent visit I had to my psychologist whom I’ve been having regular sessions with for many years. Okay so earlier this year I told my psychologist about a project that I’d been working on for many years and was finally getting under way. After explaining the broad aspects of my project to her she became genuinely interested and asked me a question. Her question was: If I Google the name of your project will I find it online? I said to her: Does my project only exist if Google says it does? She replied: Well, yes it’s the way of the modern world. Her reply says a lot to me and my way of thinking about the so called technological age. I do come from the old school and often visit public libraries, however it’s been ages since I picked up a real book. I’m just like so many who go to the library to use free WiFi. Love this article 🙂 Oops… I’ve gotta go and do a bit more skimming.

  16. anupturnedsoul

    Very thought-provoking! Great post!

    My view based on having dyslexia – translating my thoughts into words when communicating with others has always been a challenge because I think mainly in images and symbols which sometimes represent an entire book of words, so for me the internet provides a way to use an image or a link to express a thought to someone else without the long delay needed for me to translate my thought into words and then edit it so it is short enough and clear enough for someone else’s attention span.

    Funnily enough I became better at translating my inner images into words after I started using the internet. Coincidence or just what I needed to help me?

    My brain no longer feels like it is wired incorrectly. It feels like it is wired correctly for this point in time. Because the internet looks like the inside of my mind and my mind absolutely loves the internet 😉

  17. coldhandboyack

    As a fiction writer, my mind goes straight into “what’s the worst that could happen” mode. After a few generations of easy internet access, what will our long term memory evolve into? Everything we need to know is a Google away, there’s no need for our own “onboard” memory.

    Then, in fiction of course, the power has to go down and people have to fend for themselves. You made me think, good job.

  18. dorasnow

    It is a mixed bag isn’t it? I think it’s brilliant that we can find so much information from our desks. I can find information on research groups, or journals, or writing and art that I couldn’t ever have done when I was a teenager. But I do think it’s often being misused. It’s easy for young people to skim through twelve different websites at the click of a mouse and memorise a few paragraphs and think that it constitutes learning and understanding because they have so much information there.

    I think there is something to be said for some degree of by-hand research and study. I think that the enforced slower pace allows the opportunity or possibility to think more about what we are learning about.
    Similarly, I was old-school even at uni – I still wrote out essay plans and first drafts by hand, if it wasn’t too long, because I felt I had to give things more thought and was more likely to notice errors when I reviewed them.

    It was also impressed upon us at uni to consider the credibility of the websites that we used in essays. I fear that young people might not realise that many popular websites are not academically rigorous or necessarily accurate.

    I admit I’m biased though 🙂 I loved getting lost in the uni library, trawling through journals and magazines on the floor. It was like quality time with my subject. There was something very focussing about it.

    Someone else used the word ‘boundaries’ in their comment. It does feel as if the world is becoming a large playground full of teenagers (even the adults) being given free rein in all the wrong ways. We aren’t putting limits or rules on our use of technology.

    Some parts of the internet frighten me, frankly. It makes me worry for the future when anti-social behaviour becomes normalised and accepted. I feel that there’s also some connection to celebrity obsession. It’s the same sort of flashy, superficial, immediate, glossy, ‘got the latest’ culture. It’s like one long drunkenness and the hangover is yet to come.

    When things become so easy to get, we no longer learn to savour them. Things lose their value. They lose their meaning. I worry about the consequences of that. Though, ultimately, I think we’ll end up boring ourselves for that very reason, it remains to be seen whether we then return to healthier pursuits or turn to something even more extreme and destructive to relieve the boredom.

    I also worry that it is too late, in that we will reach a point where generations have been brought up in all this and critical skills and knowledge will have been permanently lost. There will be no one who has an understanding of any other way of living and learning.

    I’m also not convinced that we are capable of adapting to such a rapid pace of change in life and turnover of technology. Things are happening so quickly that we don’t have time to see the longer-term social and psychological consequences of those changes. They might hit us when it’s too late to do anything about it. On a basic level, our brains (and bodies) cannot evolve fast enough to suit our ever-changing circumstances.

    But I am also a lover of science and my life would be very isolated without IT. I think it can (should, even) be a good thing.

  19. bkmillerfield

    Technology is great, but I still do most of my reading the old-fashioned way, with a good book and a cup of tea the way it should be. I personally wouldn’t touch a Kindle with a barge pole

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