Google turned 14. And I realized that I came of age in the time of The Internet Before Google. I was lucky enough to go to a small charter school with a good technology grant in middle school. It was 1993. And every student got to spend an hour a day on the computer. We were expected to learn to use this to our educational advantage. And we did, the skills and opportunity we gained put us ahead of the curve for life. Many of my classmates went on to do very well for themselves in the tech and science world. Despite that our school had no science labs, no cafeteria, no lockers, no heaters, no coolers, no gym. And no Google.
We went to a small school in a small town. We walked. Sometimes all over town, by ourselves or in groups. We hung out at the library after school or walked a few blocks downtown and got bottles of pop at the Woolworths. We went skiing on t-bar lifts. Without adult supervision. Or helmets.
But it wasn’t that long ago. Those days of the Walkman and the Macarena. Those days of the Encyclopedia taking up three shelves at the library. We didn’t have porn a click away or Facebook. But it seems a world way. It is easy to forget when international communication was expensive and challenging. Back when calling the next county was a high-priced long distance luxury. And now we all have free long distance in our back pockets and purses. We have instant access to the encyclopedia of all encyclopedias – Google.
We no longer have any excuses for being uneducated. If we don’t want to appear ignorant all we need to do is make a trip to the restroom or pretend to have a text while we look it up on the spot. We can instantly verify any “fact” or Fact we wish.
And at the same time we have never seen louder, more pervasive rhetoric and posturing. Look at the search suggestions that pop up to see what people are really using this connectedness for. Read comments on articles about political hot-bottons, fact checking dose not come into it. Neither does respect for all the differing opinions in this wide world we can now interact with for free (or nearly so) everyday.
It is the great paradox of the Internet Age, a blessing mixed with much cursing. The language people will type is riddled with vulgarity and insults. I wonder if they speak like that to their family members like that. But it is possible to make new friends and find old friends, to explore cultures across the oceans or learn about the universe. Without a trip to town to spend half a day pulling books and carefully taking notes or an expensive phone call via satellite relay with long pauses between each reply.