Who doesn’t love the internet? You can be sitting at your desk, thinking about someone you knew in third grade, and fifteen seconds later be looking at a current photo of them. Whether or not stalking old friends is a soul-deadening waste of time is a question for another post. There’s another issue up for discussion here – the loss of mystery.
Back in the day, there was mystery in the world. When you graduated from high school, you left many of the people in your class behind and probably never knew how they turned out. Then, a 20-year reunion was truly thrilling, because it gave you a chance to see if the cheerleaders had aged poorly, or if you made the right choice breaking up with your boyfriend. There was magic there, and surprise, and drama.
That’s all gone now. Want to know if the prom queen and king got married? Google them. You probably don’t even have to – just go to the graduating year group for your school on Facebook and there they’ll be. Or you can look for them among the friends of the guy who used to live up the block from you and recently sent you a friend request. Or maybe you’re already friended to them both.
Remember when listening to the radio and trying to figure out what on earth the singer was singing was a topic of conversation that could keep you and your friends going for weeks? The only way to solve that mystery was to buy the album, and even then sometimes the lyrics weren’t printed on the cover. Now? Just google it. Or, if you’re out and about and you hear the song in a store or restaurant, your Sound Hound app will identify it for you in five seconds and scroll the lyrics right along with the music for an instant karaoke opportunity.
There’s no denying that it’s incredible to be able to get any information about anything or anyone in the world in an instant. But this has come at a price, and we should at least be aware of what we’ve lost.
Once, the desire for various kinds of knowledge drove us to go looking for it. In the library, in foreign countries, by sending letters and hoping for weeks to get a response. Along the way we also learned a lot more about a lot of other things that we just happened upon while we were searching for our answers. The search for information took time, and effort, and desire – and finding the information you sought could be pretty thrilling.
Now that so much of the world’s mystery is gone, and you can find your old beau or the lyrics to Domino in an instant, we’re all kind of bored. Maybe that’s why extreme experiences have boomed – from dining to mud runs to immersive museums. We constantly need more stimulation and excitement. No one is getting a thrill from collecting stamps.
This train can’t be stopped, and who would want to, anyway? It’s amazing to have all the information on earth in your pocket all the time. Just remember that it’s in your pocket – not your brain – so don’t expect to be the big winner on Jeopardy anytime soon.