January 21, 2010

Googling with age

It used to happen all the time. I’d be talking with a bunch of friends, and someone would say, “That old movie with the flying car. Who played the crazy uncle?” If no one knew the answer right away, we’d all try to retrieve the information from the dusty recesses of our brains.

“He wasn’t an uncle, he was a grandfather,” someone might volunteer.

“I can picture him,” someone else would say. “Crazy hair. He wore pajamas.”

We’d give up and talk about something else, and then someone would burst out, “Wait! It’s Lionel Jeffries.” We’d all nod, relieved to have figured it out.

These conversations have changed. Now when a friend says, “Who was the good-looking actor in that movie with the mailbox?” someone just says, “Google it!” and we let the computer do the thinking. Whether I’m at home or in the classroom, a laptop computer is always within reach. If I can’t think of something immediately, I just look it up.

While I’m looking things up on google, my parents are doing crossword puzzles every day. They’ve seen studies that suggest that activities that stimulate the brain with little bursts of activity can help stave off Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases associated with aging.

I wonder what our dependence on computers might mean for my generation — and everyone younger than us. By the time I’m in my late 70s, it may be too late for me to start doing crossword puzzles. I’ll be saying to my friends, “Who was that blogger who used to take naked photos of her conference roommates? I can’t seem to remember ….”

8 comments:

Sarah Sometimes said...

Googling the answers does kind of take the fun out of those conversations...

Lilian said...

Very good point! I hadn't really thought of that. I still try to remember stuff "the old way" as much as I can and I've always seen the beauty of Google as the ability of finding out useful things that can really help me learn more (particularly about various medical conditions ;-).

In any case, my uncle had brain surgery and we're looking into ways to stimulate his brain, so a few hours ago I was checking various games that are supposed to do just that (Brain Age and Brain Age 2 for the Nintendo DS, for example). Perhaps we will have to resort to electronic things like those to keep our brains in shape.

liz said...

Crossword puzzles, knitting, and playing math and word games.

Logic puzzles of all sorts.

And giving yourself 10 to 15 minutes before you google.

mehndi designs said...

I love all sorts of logic puzzle especially those that bug me very much.

Rana said...

Interesting thought... though I don't know that it's as dire as you're hinting it could be...

Mostly because the times when "Google it" is the choice, it's because either there's no one else around for me to ask, I never knew it, or spending the time thinking about it takes away from thinking about something else. I'm still thinking... I'm just not digging around for random bits of trivia. I also think of Google as playing the role of that friend who knows a bunch about X that I don't, and who I rely on when I'm clueless about a topic.

(It depends on the trivia, of course. Weird nature-y stuff seems to glue itself to my brain and stick quite firmly. The names of actors and movies and dates of various Oscars... that stuff falls right back out, and no amount of thought will bring it back. So, yay for Google.)

Yankee, Transferred said...

I, for one, believe that how I will know I have lost my memory is when I cannot remember the blogger who used to pose nude with her conference roommates!

Sandy said...

Using computers all the time must stimulate our brains in other ways -- I wonder if that balances things out.

dp said...

Its been less than 10 days since I read this blog, and I have been totally aware of how many times I have "thought" to google something I can't think of. I have talked about this particular blog in many of my conversations with friends. We all agree, and we all notice how easily we give up... and reach for google. Very good point.... good thing to fight against as I age.. ugh