The loaded meaning behind loading the page...

Duke Unfiltered | Brett Finkelstein | December 17, 2015

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In the aftermath of AOL instant messaging language like “brb”, “nmjcwbu” and “g2g” and in the wake of “fomo” comes the next abbreviation to define our time: “gfgi”. Don’t know what it means? Just look it up.

No really though. That’s what it means. Need me to make that clearer for you? Go F@&%ing Google It.

This slang phrase (and for those of you who don’t know, “slang” itself is actually an abbreviation itself for “short language”… *mind blown*) is proving to define the world we live in today. It’s no question that we live in a world of constant communication and incredible access to information, with all the limitless capabilities of the internet in the palm of our hands (figuratively, and literally, since we’re also the generation that can’t put our iPhones down).

In this world, everything is deferred to a Google search. The internet has become our sole provider of answers. Rather than a using our own agency, knowledge, or understanding to work through a problem, our immediate answer is to turn to Google. In effect, it’s stopping us from thinking for ourselves and limits our use of our creativity and imagination. Think of all the beautiful, new, challenging things we can think up ourselves, when we allow ourselves the opportunity to do so, rather than limiting ourself to the answers and solutions that have already been provided online. Our lives, conversations, thoughts, everything becomes all about information that’s already available, rather than information that we have created and thought up ourselves. The time that should be, and in theory used to be, spent in deep, meaningful thought is replaced by time spent impatiently twiddling our thumbs as we wait for the page of our Google search to load.

It’s like asking a bunch of students today to try and take a math test without a calculator, and hearing the immediate backlash of asking when in life one will ever have to do math without the their iPhone, and in turn that handy little calculator, there to do it for them. Or questioning why one would ever care to learn to read a map when Siri can be the guide and take over that job.

The fact of the matter is, technology is pretty damn cool. I mean if I told my grandpa 60 years ago that one day his car would talk to him and tell him when to turn left he would’ve laughed in my face. Hell, even if I told him that today, he’d still probably laugh in my face, but that might just be because he didn’t hear what I said. Society has changed so drastically, so quickly, that our grandparents just two generations above us cannot believe the progress that has occurred. These huge advances in technology have drastically changed the culture of our society, from little things like a GPS (btw that stands for “global positioning system”) to revolutionary medical advances. Technology plays a defining role in nearly every aspect of our lives.

And in a lot of cases, that is great. Technology not only prevents my grandpa from getting lost, but has also allowed advances in the field of medicine that are saving countless lives. Though it’s easy to get wrapped up in the positives and added convenience that technology provides us with, it’s equally as important to stop and look at the downsides. What are we losing when, instead of thinking through a problem, using creativity and imagination and problem solving skills, we instead, unlock our phones, open safari, and go f@&%ing google it?

In a feeble first attempt to examine my use of google and the role that it plays in my life, I decided to stop and think about when it is that I use the phrase, “gfgi”. It’s usually when my dad asks me something that I know he can answer for himself so easily that I cannot fathom the idea of him not just f@&%ing googling it (why should it be my job to tell him every movie playing tonight at every nearby theater, even when I can always respond with the quick “there’s an app for that” or a “gfgi”.  I mean come on Dad, literally is the app for that, and I know you have it on your iPhone). But why? Why can’t I just provide the answer? Or why can’t I allow myself to be a part of the search for the answer, rather than deferring all power and responsibility to the one, the only, the Google.

I find myself so caught up in the speed and function of today that providing answers has really become synonymous with a Google search. It can be the simplest question about the weather or the definition of a word or a commonly known historical reference, but it is all translated into a shortcut. It’s no longer excusable to admit we don’t have the answer ourselves. Even if we do have the answer, we forgot we have it. Or, we put so much pressure on the mere possibility of being wrong that we decide to not answer ourselves. Instead, we fall back on the answers provided for us. It’s all about efficiency, and there just isn’t time for anything else that isn’t as cost-effective as a Google definition.That’s not to mention the possibility of being wrong when responding myself, which again runs counter to the pure efficiency of Google answers.

But it’s not just me, or my family, and that’s why I’m taking the time to write about it. Our brains are constantly on the internet, and we just can’t separate ourselves as individuals anymore. While this phenomenon may just seem like a bunch of teenagers glued to our smartphones, it really comes from the greater issue of how electronically focused our world is today. And this technological response poses the question of where this will take us in the future with only faster download speeds and other capabilities?

What does this mean for our brains and our memory? What does this mean for all the things we should know and should be able to answer ourselves? The things we learned in elementary and middle school classes? And what about the social value of pure conversation, and specifically one that is not mediated through the cell phone or video chat? What about our interpersonal relationships?

What about the meaning of being a student, and specifically a student at a university as prestigious as Duke? What about the pure joy of learning? What about recognizing one’s own ability to find new answers and not fall back on those set forth by others? What about forward progress into the future that we are being brought into through even more technological change faster than ever before? What about leading the way into this future, as today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders?

I’m going to be honest, I don’t have the answers to all of these questions. What may be more important, however, isn’t explicitly answering these questions but realizing the practical implications they have. Or maybe I’m just saying that because like so many others in this generation, I am too scared to admit that I don’t possess all the answers myself. So what do we do? How do we find them? My only advice would be to gfgi.

Then will you please forward me the link from what you find and maybe I’ll ttyl about it.