3.26.2009

Wonder wanders on the Internet

Remember when we used to wonder about stuff?

Some obscure question would arise, and we’d wonder about it, scanning our brains, trying to remember if we’d ever heard of the poser before and whether me might know the answer. We’d even file the question away for later, with the notion that we’d look it up in a dictionary or an encyclopedia when we had more time.

Now that computers are commonplace, there’s no reason to wonder anymore. You want to know something, you can find out in seconds. A search in Google or a little shoveling in Dogpile or a quick romp through Wikipedia, and you can answer most any question that comes to mind.

Who played the cop in that movie we saw last week? How far to Bali? Whatever happened to old So-and-so? What is this rash? How long do you cook a two-minute egg? Where did all my money go? Why do birds suddenly appear, every time you are near? All that info, and much, much more, is readily available via the Internet.

We could be the best-informed populace of all time, but in the process we’re losing the capacity for speculation. Wondering is good for you. It makes your brain work. It forces you to come up with your own creative (albeit often extremely incorrect) answers.

Kids are great wonderers. Everything’s brand new to them, so they wonder about everything: Why is the sky blue? Where do babies come from? Why is grass itchy? How many deviled eggs can I stuff in one automobile ashtray? Could you make a doubled-barreled slingshot out of a brassiere? If there are undertows, how come there’s no such thing as an “overtow?” Why is Paris Hilton a celebrity?

As parents, it’s our job to answer their many, many questions as best we can, or to at least steer our offspring toward the right answers. Of course, we parents are tired and distracted, so the quality of our information may be suspect. Plus, some of us are perverse, and have been known to make up fanciful answers from whole cloth.

That no longer works once the kids get access to the Internet.

“You lied!” they shriek. “Thunder is NOT caused by God dancing around in rubber boots. I looked it up!”

We parents have to back and fill, telling the little beggars we were only joking, grain of salt, etc. The children never look at us quite the same afterward.

Not that we notice. We’re too busy looking stuff up on the Internet ourselves. We waste huge chunks of time, tracking down random factoids that we’d probably be better off not knowing.

We start clicking through links, looking for a little more information, and instead get captivated by tangents. We click and we click, and each link takes us farther away from the original question. We start off trying to understand why the ocean is blue, and end up reading a treatise on Portuguese pornography.

This leads to a whole new set of questions: What the heck am I doing? How did I get here? What was I originally looking up? Do I still care anymore? Did I miss dinner? Who knew things were so hot in Portugal?

It’s enough to make you wonder.

1 comment:

Selma Rockett said...

So true----just think of all the things our parents told us that weren't true!!