When children of long ago had questions, their wise mothers often sent them to the encyclopedia. “Look it up,” they said, and obedient children did as they were told. More clever children realized their mothers didn’t know all the answers but were too embarrassed to admit it, so they gave up and ran off to play. And foolish children asked older siblings who purposely misled them. That explains why, to this day, many adults think camels store water in their humps and chocolate milk comes from brown cows.
Things have changed. Today’s children look up information without being told to. And why not? Asking Siri or searching the internet is so easy even an adult can do it. And we do—all day long.
I don’t know about you, but researching trivia has replaced walking back and forth to the refrigerator as my favorite way to avoid doing actual work on my computer. As I write, questions pop into my head and most of them have nothing to do with what I’m working on. For example, how many licks does it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Knowing that it’s approximately 252 is useful when Tootsie Pops play a role in what I’m writing, but up until this moment, they never have.
Worse, I’ve wasted far too much time researching when I could have been working or even licking an actual Tootsie Pop myself.
If you’re thinking it couldn’t have taken that long, you’ve apparently never blown an entire afternoon following one link and another and another until you’ve completely forgotten what your original question was.
Let me demonstrate. Let’s say I want to make a better meat loaf. Before I type the words “meat loaf” into the search bar, I have to get past my newsfeed. I seldom do.
Today, one of the headlines is, “How to pronounce Princess Eugenie’s name.” I’ve never given this a thought, but now that you mention it…. I click on the link and see a photo of Princess Eugenie wearing what looks like a satellite dish on her head. I’ve always loved hats; I’m less fond of satellite dishes.
Suddenly, I’m overcome with curiosity. Why do royals wear such goofy hats? I type the question into the search bar and an explanation appears, but I don’t read it because my attention is caught by a sidebar: “The best haircuts for older women.” Now there’s news I can use. I start scrolling. I’m at 42—the haircut, not the age—when my attention is snagged by yet another sidebar, “Why you shouldn’t add milk to scrambled eggs.” I never do, but I can’t help wondering why I shouldn’t. I click on the link and up pops a story along with a photo of perfectly scrambled eggs. Dang, I’m hungry. What should I make for dinner?
You see how it happens. I’ve just whiled away an hour, and I still don’t know how to pronounce Eugenie, what my next haircut should be or how to make a better meat loaf. And if you want to know how, I suggest you don’t look it up.
(Send your meat loaf recipes to Dorothy Rosby at [email protected])
Don’t look it up! You’ll get lost in the net