When I needed to learn the best way to videotape an informal interview, I Googled it. When a relative was diagnosed with cancer, I Googled it. When I needed to learn more about using social media marketing for b2b marketing, I Googled it. How to take great photos? Launch a blog? Get my kids to make their beds? Googled it. Nike might want you to “Just do it” but why bother when you can “Just Google it”?
I was starting to feel as if there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do, learn or become an expert at in minutes–or at least the first few highly ranked articles in Google search. Whether I needed a recipe to whip up a tantalizing blog post or a succulent pork roast, I had every resource, every answer right at my fingertips. It was intoxicating. I was drunk with power and knowledge. I was addicted to Google.
And then my power went out. Literally–no electricity. For three days.
No Google. No news. No instant knowledge. When I wanted to look up directions to my daughter’s piano recital, I stared longingly at my laptop. (I have a GPS, but it’s still sitting in the box in the garage. Is there a word for a lazy technology adopter?) Search phrases bounced in my head: “ComEd sucks” and “what to do when the power’s out” topped the list. I wanted to learn more about the damage caused by the bad storms that had ripped through the area with 77 mph hurricane force winds, but had to wait for the newspaper.
With a generator running enough power to keep our fridge cold and the whole house fan running–my children’s severe allergies make opening windows in summertime impossible–there was nothing to do but sit and talk. By candlelight. Which sounds romantic, except it’s only romantic when you want to do it, not when you have to do it. I wondered, is this what life was like in the Little House on the Prairie days? How lame! How boring! How the hell did they survive without Google?
Shortly after, my husband was hospitalized for a minor illness. I was left to figure out how to run the generator, how he had hooked it up to our home’s electrical panel, and how to disconnect it if and when the power came back on. He’d drawn me a diagram on the back of a receipt while he was hooked up to an IV bag with morphine in the emergency room. I reluctantly took it from him and assured him I would figure it out.
How badly I wanted to Google “HELP!”
Then a funny thing happened. When I got home from the hospital, one neighbor came over to help me with the generator. Another neighbor came over and took a chain saw to the huge branches that had fallen from our trees during the storm. More neighbors offered help with the kids, a place to stay, cold drinks, whatever we needed. I still missed Google, but I realized that even Google can’t replace good people.
But it got me thinking about my Google grandiose. You think you are an expert because you have so much knowledge, so much content, at your fingertips. But this easy access to boatloads of information deludes you into thinking you know more than you actually do. While Google is great for finding information, it’s no replacement for true expertise, experience and knowledge that comes from working, studying and perfecting your craft. You can only learn so much by reading. At some point, you have to start doing. I think this is what my dad would call “book smarts” vs. “street smarts.”
But what happens when everyone thinks that they are an expert? They say, “I could do that. How hard can it be? It’s right here on Google.” And then we start looking at the experts and thinking, “Why should I pay you $100/hour when I can get this other guy for $15/hour?” Where does it end, this putting a price on expertise and trust? If we are all experts, then what does this say about us as a society? It gets dangerous when you tackle subjects that require more expertise than Google can provide–medicine, engineering, electrical work, to name a few. When people start trying to diagnose their own illnesses on WebMD, it can have disastrous consequences.
Whenever I am in the throes of my Google addiction, trying to become the Jill of all Trades and Master of None, I remember the wise words of my design friend Susan: “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.” I have plenty of crappy photos, mediocre blog posts and uninspired pork roast dinners to back it up. We can’t all be experts at everything–nor should we be. We don’t have to know everything about everything. We need experts. We need Google and good neighbors. See, there Google goes again, teaching me another great lesson. Only this one didn’t turn up in any search.
Do you think Google is diluting the value of true expertise, experience and craftsmanship?