Imagine a life where all of a sudden your portable cell phone and all Internet connections instantly vanished from your individual reality. Would you be able to remember the phone number of your best friend? Does your memory contain the driving directions to your sister’s house located three states away? Are you able to remember the instructional details that were sent in yesterday’s email from your boss regarding that new project? Do you remember how to spell the word “receive” or “interdisciplinary” without the use of Google’s instant editing software?
Several scientific research studies have taken place recently, providing alarming statistical data to support the hypothesis that the dominance and increasing dependency on Google for its fast and efficient fact-finding tools has made many of us much more forgetful. Our memory muscles simply are not required to work as hard as they used to, leading to our inability to remember even the most common facts and figures.
One research team from Harvard University asked several students to answer a few, simple trivia questions. The students were allowed to either answer using Google or through using their own brainpower. The study showed that those who used the Internet to find the answers actually had a substantially higher opinion of their own level of intelligence compared to those who were able to answer the questions on their own. Most people would expect the results to be reversed.
The belief that Google has become intertwined with our own mental abilities as a cognitive tool for human reason and memory is quickly gaining a stronger following among researchers and scientists in the field of psychology. In fact, many of these studies have shown that people will trust the saving abilities of the “bookmarks” on their Google web browsers and the apps on their smartphones over the memories of facts and figures provided by the smartest people that they know in real life. They even trust Google more than they trust themselves. If it isn’t written somewhere on Google that we can see with our own eyes, then it seems to lack credibility.
Because the Internet is so readily available, our initial impulses to commit important facts to memory is becoming undermined. Since we are reasonably sure that any and all information can be easily found again on Google, we often feel no need to fill our minds with seemingly useless data. Google has become an extension of our personal psyches rather than as a separate and individual informational tool or aid.
It is almost as if we imagine Google to be a human entity altogether, only this “being” is viewed as smarter than any of our parents, teachers, bosses, and friends. Our dependence on the search engines to provide us with instant answers is rising at an alarmingly rapid rate as the use of portable handheld devices is becoming more prevalent in society almost daily. Some statistics now show that nearly 70% of all Internet searches are derived from these handheld smartphones. Google, Yahoo and Bing are literally at our fingertips at all times, a virtual extension of our right arm. Unfortunately, Google is getting into our heads as well.