How Smartphones Killed the Sense of Wonder

MagicThings Children are full of questions.

Why do the trees have leaves? Why don't snakes have legs? How does the sun know when to go down? Where does the ocean end? Can I possibly annoy my mother more?

When I was a kid, an answer was an elusive, mysterious beast. So if a question approached my mind, I'd capture it; study it; formulate possibilities and scenarios at warp speed. Potential solutions would be discussed with curious friends and hypotheses spouted to my parents. Everything was awe-inspiring, because nothing was obvious. The world was full of magic things, waiting to be fully discovered. And when--if--the answer ever came, it arrived with a sense of triumph. So that's why. I was right! I figured it out! Huzzah!

Fast forward 15 years and ten iPhone versions later. Yesterday morning I sat in the living room with my daughter, building precarious skyscrapers out of wooden blocks, and I asked her a question. "Why does Mommy love you so much?"

Her answer? She grabbed my shiny iPhone 5s from the coffee table and chirped in her precious 2 year old voice, "I don't know. Let's google it."

Let's. Google. It.

Keep in mind that my daughter does not own an iPhone. She has no Kindle Fire or Nook. The intricacies of a keyboard still elude her, though I'm convinced she knows exactly what ALT+F4 does (and abuses it terribly). Google is as foreign to her as Spain. And yet, when she heard me ask a question, her immediate reaction was to "google it." So where did she learn that?

She learned it from watching me. Us. Her mother and father, grandparents and family friends. To her, this is how we answer life's mysteries. Instead of pondering and discussing them, we type a question into our smartphone and let the internet answer for us. Let me clarify that the internet is not the issue here--the problem is that we take the internet with us wherever we go (even to the bathroom), and we consistently allow it to do our thinking for us. We have gone from a world of dreamers and wonderers to a world that knows everything and nothing all at once. Our imaginations have given way to information. While information is an invaluable thing to have, we've lost something just as important: the desire to think for ourselves; to seek out the unknown by searching beyond our fingertips. I don't know about you, but it's been a while since I've really marveled at the magic of the world around me. Smartphones have killed the sense of wonder.

With the average american child spending eight hours per day locked into media, I do worry that in the future, that lack of curiosity will lead to a lack of innovation. Maybe one day nobody will bother to come up with their own answers anymore. Maybe everyone will be so used to having information given to them that they won't know how to create it. That's scary, and I can't do anything about it. But I can salvage my sense of wonder. Next time a question wiggles its way into my mind, I can resist the urge to pick up my iPhone. Instead, I can think. I can debate with myself. I can discuss with others. I can come up with my own answer--one that wasn't handed to me via the internet. And you know, perhaps that answer will be totally off base--but at least I'll have worked for it.

Happy Wondering,

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This isn't a writing post, but for those of you who check in for my daily quotes and prompts, here's Today's Prompt:

Think of a question you don't know the answer to. Create your own answer, and write a short story explaining it. Don't use any search engines until after your story is complete!