As I was working on my book yesterday, I came upon the need to find out what a welder's helmet was called. I was trying to use a reference to it in a chapter, and wanted to find out if there were other, perhaps better or more eloquent terms for it. In so doing, I wandered into an article that told about retinal flash burn. Evidently this is the condition you get if you look at the flame of the welder without the protection of said helmet.
Well that's great, but that's not something I wanted to know. I stumbled upon it in doing a Google search for welder's helmet. So now I know more about welding than I did yesterday. Go figure.
I tell this story because it illustrates how easily we get distracted in this day and age of technology. Google (and the web) have made us easily distracted. Fifteen years ago, I would have had to look something like that up in the dictionary or, more likely, I would have just left the description at "welder's helmet" rather than going to the extra work in the name of a better word.
Which raises the question, does the web, or rather, having access to the web, make us smarter? I'm not sure I have the right answer, but what I do know is I can find answers to just about anything in a matter of seconds by doing a Google search. It doesn't necessarily mean I'm smarter, in fact if I was really smart, I wouldn't have to look it up in the first place. It may make me slightly more knowledgeable if I want to become a welder someday, but I digress.
Another instance of this was my cell phone dying rapidly on two consecutive days. In trying to figure out what was causing it I googled again. I found a number of suggestions that I can now share among my family and friends to help them with the same problem. Does that make me smarter (or smarter than them?), probably not. It makes me more informed on one thing perhaps, but that one thing probably has a shelf life of about 6 months before it becomes obsolete, or I forget it.
What's my point? I'm not sure, really. I do know I could function without Google, but it would be a lot more work to get answers to some of life's most mundane questions. On the other hand, I always say google takes me places I want to go and want not to go, sometimes in the same click.