We live in an age where an answer is readily available. But do we question the integrity of the source, the depth of the answer, or understand the invisible intentions in place?
During my weekend run, I was listening to Masterclass when I saw struck by this comment made by Malcolm Gladwell. He criticised writers who used Google as their primary research tool. Why? Isn’t Google the tool the democratisation of knowledge? ‘Googleable’ is even now a word in some dictionaries, don’t believe me - Google it!
Google, or most other Internet search engines, is the first place many of us go to answer our questions. We will always get an answer no matter what the question. The most optimised and popular results will pleasantly serve you this, every, single, time. There is a finite point, a definitiveness to receiving an answer and it’s in our power if we’re not satisfied to try another one to repeat this process. What Malcolm point raised for me wasn’t never to use Google again, but to be cautious in our approach and satisfaction in the process to search for answers.
Firstly, a search engine doesn’t nurture our creative problem-solving process. Do any of you remember the days of the school library? Where there were actual books you had to pick up and go through? You might start checking out the Table of Contents, the Author’s biography, when this was written and starting to formulate whether this person’s work may house the answer to the question you are seeking? You may involve a librarian and likely your teacher in the iterative process to help construct your response and answer to the question. You may come across older works that have withstood the test of time and still remain relevant today.
The Information Age has given us quick access to search and find an answer (and a bonus hit of dopamine). While for closed questions this, such as what is the capital of Zimbabwe or what’s the weather forecast today, these can be helpful. But have we extended too much dominance to this system without enough critical though? I certainly can say I have. What about the harder questions, you know the ones we are in search for. I know for me especially at tough times or earlier in life I would be seek answers from Google (or Ask Jeeves was a favourite before then).
‘How do I know if I’m in a bad relationship?’
‘What career should I pursue?’
‘What’s the best city in the world to live in?’
How have these questions been something we’ve narrowed into such a single question that could be answered in a simple search toggle? We know the results we get are a skewed algorithmic bubble. We see famous people first, more beautiful people, people with money, people with more power. The people who likely don’t look like, sound like or are like us? Unconsciously, I know the search for these answers can end up comparing, criticising and leaving me more confused than when I started. More information is not always better.
We all know deep down that our journeys are all different. The real answers many of us seek on happiness, purpose, relationships and life can’t come from someone else’ search algorithm results. We have to try on different answers, speak to others, follow the rabbit hole which doesn’t have any shortcuts and accept there may not be an answer.
Isn’t this the beauty in the process? In finding closer answers to life’s questions for me has revealed more knowledge (and questions) about myself. It doesn’t always remain correct, it can evolve, change with new information, thought and discovery about myself.
I challenge you to interogate and think about the places you seek answers from. Only than can we break-free from this notion that all questions have an answer, it’s as easy as a quick search and that the most popular results are there to serve you.
What ways have you found most helpful in seeking the difficult question you are seeking answers from?