Google Has Altered Your Expectations


This won't all show up in a search query

Just because you can look up an answer to a burning question in a few seconds for most facts doesn’t mean you can do the same for recommendations. That’s especially true when it comes to something as personal as travel.

I worry that the wonderful always-on answer machine we have at our fingertips is making us dumber and some research is starting to show up that indicates we’re at least getting lazier about remembering things. If we think we can retrieve any factual knowledge in seconds, we don’t bother to actually commit facts to long-term memory—or dig deeper.

The problem is, an expectation has grown in some people that the answer to any question should be that easy. “How do I find the perfect man for me?” should be as simple as “Who sang ‘Tutti Frutti’?” Here are a few travel-related questions I’ve seen in the comments of this blog, on social media outlets, and on message boards:

1) “My husband and I want to go to a nice beach in Latin America next month. Where should we go?”

2) “I’m going to be traveling around the world for eight months, probably staying in hostels. How much will it cost?”

3) “We are a family of four making $45,000 a year and want to move out of the U.S. Where should we go live?”

4) “What’s the best hotel to stay in for a weekend in Mexico City?”

5) “A friend of mine wants to go to Africa next summer. Any recommendations?”

These are questions that cannot be answered without lots more questions first. They are beginnings to a long conversation. Reams more information is necessary before any expert can tell you what you need to know. It doesn’t matter if that expert is an algorithm, one human being, or a whole crowd of virtual friends.

The answer I usually give to questions like this tends to make people huffy. But it’s what they need to hear: do your homework first.

The reason stupid top-10 and “best of” articles are so popular across all media forms is because so many people are looking for a shortcut. But when it comes to important decisions in your life, it’s not that simple. You can’t look at a list article and be ready to invest your money, buy a house, have a kid, move to another city, plan a garden, sail a boat, write a book, or travel around the globe for months on a limited budget. You need to do some real research first.

Fortunately, someone else has usually done the legwork to help you down the right path. There’s probably a great book out there already that has it all covered. Maybe a whole shelf full of books. Or a magazine to subscribe to. Or a club to belong to. Or a null to hang out on. One element will still be required though—your time.

Even in the age of Google and Twitter in your pocket, real knowledge still takes some effort to acquire.

[Flickr photo by cathyse97]

  1. Tedel

    Oh, as a former teacher, I must say it. What a great article! If every student in the world could just memorize those two sentences…

    One element will still be required though—your time.


    Even in the age of Google and Twitter in your pocket, real knowledge still takes some effort to acquire.

    …in five years time we would have another world.

  2. gary

    Amen, Tim.


  3. Jose

    I completely agree with the article. Shortcuts and lists is what society demands, but sometimes we need to do a more profound work, more reflexive also, to find the answers to our questions.

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