I remember when I was a junior in high school. Mr. Colatruglio, my history teacher, had us prepare a presentation for the class on the history ”of something.” I chose the history of soap making. So I went to the Arcanum Library and started looking through the encyclopedias for information. Come to find out that all I could find was one paragraph about the history of soap making in the whole library! So what was I to do? Well, I used that one paragraph. You may think I got a bad grade. Well no. I got an A. How did that happen? Well, I used other methods to fill the voids of my presentation. First, I called my Uncle Richard that has about a million antiques in his barn and asked if he had anything to do with soap making. Well, he had a glass jar with some shavings of lye soap in it, ready for washing, and he had a stomp washer and a washboard. And those of you that know me won’t be surprised that I found a costume (probably from “Mom Dunlap”) and gave my presentation in character opening with, “I represent the washer-women through the ages!” OK, sounds kind of corny looking back. But then it did get me that A. And I figure I got some points for creativity, costumes, and props. All of this built off of the one paragraph found in the library. (I remember learning that fat of sacrifices dripped into into the ashes below [like lye?] and made suds, and people starting figuring it out…something like that.) So in retrospect, I see that if I had more information too, I may have not had to kick in some creativity and resourcefulness. Hmmm. Wasn’t that good for me?
OK, I just Google-ed the “history of soap making” and found (in .33 seconds) about 2,800,000 entries of information. Wow. If I had Google over 35 years ago, I would still be reading those entries and never got my A. I also would have missed the interaction with the library staff, with my uncle, and with “Mom Dunlap.”
I just love the information superhighway. And I just hate it too. I want answers to questions and rarely have to leave a question unanswered any more. I can Google it or ask Siri, plus other options. I can get phone numbers, find out my altitude, and find an obscure farm part. I can learn EVERY option out there when wanting to make a purchase (see last blog Too Many Choices) and seemingly find the greatest, lowest price. I can find things that aren’t made any more through Ebay or Craig’s List instead of taking my chances at a garage sale. I can learn about new inventions and when they will be available. I can find the latest news, but need to sometimes verify its validity.
But is all of this good? I used to ask my mom how to spell something while doing homework when in school, and she would tell me to go and look it up in the dictionary. Now if I am typing a paper up, I just use spell check (that, as many of us know, doesn’t find ALL mistakes) or I can go to dictionary.com. What would I do without these helps? They are great tools give my work some polish with just a few strokes of a key.
I now use the internet to find phone numbers, to find businesses, do banking, check credit card accounts, pay bills, fill out medical forms, get test results… the list is endless as many of you know. But more and more, I find myself picking up my laptop throughout the day to send a message or look up some information, or just find a recipe. If I’m just curious about something, I don’t have to be curious any longer. Just look it up! If I’m planning a vacation, there is ENDLESS information out there to confuse me all the more when trying to make plans. I miss just talking to the agent at the AAA office to get advice. She knew her stuff. I can even search for hotels and such on my smart phone now while heading to our destination. But the payoff is missing all of the beautiful scenery out the window while on the journey.
As many things in the world, all of this information can be used “for good or for evil.” But when I find a lot of my time eaten up learning what all of you are doing (through Facebook) that I never would have known without all of this information sitting in my lap, what good could I have done with that time? Not all time spent online is bad, nor is all of it good. I just think it is frankly a matter of TOO MUCH INFORMATION! How do we sort this out?
I would love to have your input and perspectives on the subject. What parameters do you use to not let the information superhighway suck the time right out of your life? If we’re not careful, we’ll all find old age creep up on us while we were just checking our email and inadvertently ended up down a rabbit trail.