“Before the Internet,” by Emma Rathbone. The New Yorker, 6/20/2017.
The New Yorker article is a short, humorous piece about how life was different before we had the Internet, but a couple of the points were especially relevant for me.
You could not easily check facts: These are little facts that come up almost every hour of every day. Of course, even then, you could go to the library and check facts in their encyclopedia, but we’re talking here about the little questions that would be forgotten before you ever got there. The example Rathbone gives is of two friends, one claiming a gemstone is a cat’s-eye and the other thinks it is an opal. Today, one of them would whip out a cellphone and settle the question in seconds with a Goggle search, as I just did (and often do when writing a blog posting). I now know more than I need to about opals and cat’s eyes without even leaving my chair.
You could move to a new state, and no one at school would know anything about you: I thought of this when recently posting Pat Johnson’s obituary. She suddenly popped up in our senior year and was into everything. But where was she before? Today, I would have found all about her with a Goggle search. I would have also found her Lansdowne address and phone number, and made a fool of myself that would still make me cringe.