Can You Go A Week Without Searching?

No, you can’t. Well actually, that’s not fair. I can’t go a week without searching, but I shouldn’t tar you with my brush; you might be excellent at it, a real pro.

I decided to try and go a week without searching after I realised just how much I rely on being able to Google and Wikipedia things. What time is it in Australia? When was the first edition of the New York Times published? Who is that minor character in Frasier? What else do I know him from? Whenever I have a question in my head, both serious and frivolous, I just head over to a search engine and it can usually provide the answer for me, lickety-split. My brain’s been programmed so that any time I’m curious about something, I turn to the internet as my first port of call.

But not everyone grew up with email, dodgy WiFi connections and weeping over their keyboards because they couldn’t remember their passwords, so they don’t automatically think to search for things online. This was illustrated to me very clearly when my dad was sat at the computer reading a newspaper article about William III (better known as the ‘William’ from William and Mary). Neither he nor I could think when William III reigned so I suggested we look it up meaning, of course, Google it. My dad, however, got up from the computer and went into the kitchen to get the wooden ruler with all the Kings and Queens and the years they reigned printed on it to find the answer, he didn’t even think to move his eyes to the right hand corner of the screen and Google it.

And so I decided to see if I could go old school. If I could last a week without any searching. That meant no going on Wikipedia or IMDB or any other sites and entering items in their search box. No looking for certain words on a page. And certainly no search engines – no Google, no Bing, no Speedy Pete’s Internet Directory. I was allowed on the internet, but only if I knew the name of the website. How hard could it be? People lived for millennia without having knowledge at their fingertips, surely I could survive a week.

Well, it turns out that I couldn’t.

At first I just wanted to look up silly pop culture things that didn’t really matter. I saw an episode of Will and Grace where Will is wearing a Princeton t-shirt and so wondered if they went to Princeton, I wanted to watch an episode of an old TV show I suddenly remembered from my childhood and I wanted to know who wrote and recorded “Hit the Road Jack”. All things that you’d quite like to know, but it doesn’t really matter if you know them or not.

Then came the things that you can find out for yourself, it’s just the Internet makes it so much easier. What does omnipotent mean? When translating “Butter” into German, is it der, die or das Butter? What was that item on the news that I just missed? I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next news broadcast.

There were other things throughout the week, things that I was itching to know about in more detail that only the Internet, or an expert on the subject could provide for me, but I didn’t cave in. I stuck to my no searching policy because it wasn’t essential that I knew them.

So, what was my downfall? What was it that meant that I couldn’t go a week without searching? Well, it was Inheritance Tax Forms, of course.

I could go for a week without searching for the silly stuff, but it was the serious stuff that I couldn’t do without, the things that affected me in “real” life. I could probably have found a physical copy of form IHT421 in some government building or sent off for one, but that just isn’t practical when you’ve got the computer just sat on the desk, practically begging you to use it. So much administration from our offline lives is available online that you’re probably at a disadvantage if you don’t search for things: train times, job applications, most competitive prices for your electricity, best interest rates for online banking, the list goes on.

So whilst it’s absolutely lovely that we live in a world where information is just a few seconds away and we can search the internet for “baby scared of mom blowing nose” and photos of nail art, it is possible to live without all that random information. I hated not being able to search for it and went Google-crazy once my self-imposed ban was lifted but I could do it. It’s instead those practical money and time saving things that make searching such an essential part of everyday life.

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