Graeme Baker: Heartfelt confessions of a Google addict

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The Independent Online

Google has turned my brain to mush. I used to store all the information I knew in one place - my brain. These days I've outsourced to the world wide web. I didn't want to do it, I didn't realise I was doing it, but recently - for pretty much every query posed - my first instinct is to consult the google box.

This is wrong. I know it's wrong. But I just can't stop. I am becoming the human equivalent of a "cloud computer" - I don't know answers so much as know where they can be found. But worse than this, I have begin googling something even when I know the answer, just to be on the safe side.

And the side-effect is that I now scrutinise everything to the tiniest detail. Having satisfied my initial hunt for a factoid, Google takes me by the hand and guides me ever deeper down the rabbit hole. And most of the time, to chase nonsense. But it's just so effortless.

Recently I moved from looking for a tea recipe to finding that only men make the tea in Peshawar and cardamom (a very important constituent of said tea) is the second most expensive spice, there are two varieties and it comes mainly from India but they grow it in South America these days as well. See? Useless knowledge, but it was there. Winter nights are so long.

It's a habit that's becoming hard to break, it's just too satisfying.

There's a kind of sentience to the thing, but I'm sure that for every hit taken, the more the brain atrophies.

And it's worse than this. It often determines my social life (what social life that may be). Have you ever thought about doing something and input it into Google as a question? I ask it questions all the time. Best film 2009 ... Best restaurants Auckland ... give me a map from here to there.

Recently, I found myself wondering how to text message a potential date. Five seconds later, according to Google: not too forward, not to familiar, DEFINITELY no text speak or smileys - out unless you're under 13. The other answer was, erm, make the leap and phone her.

I once caught a flatmate typing "should I get back with my ex-boyfriend?" She didn't heed the answer though. Another friend confided that she once searched for "how to deal with a difficult boss". I think the answer she got was "leave your job".

It has been 11 years since Google emerged as the big cheese of search engines. It's now an integral part of our lives.

'Google silences' now punctuate the modern office conversation. Arguments are no longer about who can bang on the longest and loudest, they're about who can hit the keyboard the fastest. Discussions reach an impasse, silence falls, keyboards tap for a few minutes and then quick-draw comes back with the fact nugget that wins the day.

So we're all experts now, thanks to the internet and the convenient way to trawl through it.

You don't need degrees in history to argue about the most inbred Hapsburg emperor, or a doctorate in physics to pretend you know about string theory. You can pretend with the best of'em. It's all there for you.

But I doubt any of us are any more intelligent for it. It's too transient. You forget what you find because you move on to the next thing. And the next, and so on.

But maybe it's not so bad. My brain is not exactly infallible. Had I googled "should I talk nonsense in a bar till 5am?", the first half of last week might not have been so hard to get through.

If I'd googled "eat pizza or go to the gym?" I might be cutting a more svelte figure in my early 30s.

Had I asked "should I leave myself three hours to write my column?" I might have written a masterpiece.

But then again ...

Graeme Baker is the deputy news editor of the New Zealand Herald.