Asking in the era of Google

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By Julio Cesar

It’s incredible how, in the Internet era, the simple act of asking a question has become such an issue. Having doubts in front of a class or between co-workers today can cause one to feel shame.

“Just google it later,” says an inner voice to avoid looking ignorant.

Yes, the Internet exists and can help us gain information, but so can the experiences of our peers. You shouldn’t be ashamed to ask questions or annoyed to answer them.

Websites such as “Let me Google that for you” create an online joke about today’s “Googling” culture. Supposedly, people should not waste each other’s precious time by asking questions they can find answers to on the Internet.

But there’s a important flaw in this way of thinking: A personal answer can provide much more than just information. Sometimes someone else can provide a unique view and perspective about a subject that even the best search engines can’t supply.

That’s why students ask our great professors about things we already vaguely know the answer to. It’s not the immediate answer to the question that’s of interest ­— it’s the comments, impressions, stories attached and examples used that expand our understanding of a subject.

Giving away this opportunity for an unlimited amount of impersonal information found online, merely to give the impression of not being dumb, ends up being a dumb alternative. From fake impression to fake impression, reality shows that even in the more serious and intelligent-looking classes and professional circles, many people can be struggling just like we are sometimes.

Asking questions of a peer is an engaging experience. It involves all of one’s senses in a thoughtful moment. Answers can extend from the field of consult and become discussion, the base of all philosophy. It’s an active exercise of social and intellectual ties that mutually changes paradigms.

And although some can indeed have productive discussions on forums or comments sections. This still does not put those two different experiences — real and virtual — much closer. The reason is simple: Just the real dialogue of ideas, without anonymity or online consult, ties our ideas strongly to ourselves.

That being so, when you pose questions to another person, your abilities of thought are exposed publicly. You feel pushed to make wiser and elaborate questions even if the subject is simple.

With search engines or the other hand, you don’t even need to choose a coherent phrase to get your result, and this represent a huge loss in the development of our communication skills. Throw the first rock, those who have never asked Google something like “store fall clothes cheap on city.”

Keeping the ability to discuss issues with one another is important, and it is absurd that people nowadays regard non-googlers as an unnecessary annoyance.

Answering somebody else’s questions can be even more rewarding than asking your own. For those who have all the answers, explaining is an experience of accessing memory, synthesizing personal thoughts and exercising speech and communication abilities. It’s not a waste of time at all, and even a rewarding experience.

If someone wants to ask you about a subject it’s not because they’re lazy, but because they feel interest in your responses, and this is an important detail that can bring much satisfaction for those who answer. After all, typing on a cellphone is much easier than engaging in a conversation, and if someone is willing to do that with you, it’s because at least you have interesting things to say.

Of course, this article is not a urge to abolish search engines, but about how to use them wisely without losing fundamental human skills that personal social interaction can develop. Knowing when you should ask someone a question or access the internet is not difficult. Obviously, you’re never going to ask someone who is busy a question.

And if a short answer is what you need, it can be better to just Google it. But for anything other than these few exceptions, everyone should engage in the exchanging of ideas with other people before going to the Internet.

By asking and answering complex questions through exchanging ideas and experiences rather than consulting a search engine, one is influenced into new ways of thinking, and being able to ask in the classroom and everywhere else without shame should be valued as an act of interest and not pushed aside to the Internet.

Julio is a freshman in Engineering. 

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