Home > Google, Modern Technology > Calling Out BS in the Google Age

Calling Out BS in the Google Age

This past weekend, I had the entire family over, mostly to watch our beloved football team in the playoffs, but also to have one last meal before my youngest son returned to his Spring semester at college.  Now whenever my children (all in their twenties) get together, it can be a rather loud, rough-and-tumble affair, filled with debates and spirited banter.  Competitiveness runs high in this family, and with an added layer of our ethnicity’s tendency to “discuss loudly” and passionately, the result is not for the faint of heart.

The wide range of topics my kids argued passionately over discussed are of little relevance to this post.  I was more intrigued by modern-day tactics available to them in being able to call out BS.  It seems that in these modern times, whenever anyone makes a statement that another disagrees with, out comes the iPhone, and a quick Google search to find a citation or reference in order to prove or disprove a point. It was an epic battle of the iPhone and search engine apps.  Each was fact-checking statements of the other in real time while the discussions were bubbling away.  The thumbs were getting as much of a workout as the mouths.

It made me think about how very different things were regarding debates and discussions in our day and age.  I made this observation to them, whereupon they asked me, how did we check our facts and figures back then?  It made me think a bit.  I managed to tell them that we relied a lot more on memory, drawing from things we may have read or perhaps heard from others, but the reality is, we oftentimes didn’t really take the time to fact-check, as precious few of us visited local libraries on a regular enough basis to consult the tomes of knowledge in painstaking detail.  Their collective sentiment and comment was, “So, you basically were able to bullshit everyone a lot more than today.”  Ouch!

All of this leads me to the following questions:

Did we really BS each other more in the past, when we were reasonably confident that most folks we discussed matters with were not inclined to check out the accuracy of our statements?  Were we more cocksure in our statements?  Did we exaggerate more?

Are we more careful in these modern times to make statements because of the ability for someone to immediately call BS?

Have at it folks – I’m interested in what you all think.

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  1. January 17, 2012 at 9:08 am

    Interesting questions that you raise. I may have to do some Google research and get back to you on that! 😉

    No. I’m going to rely on my suspect memory. I think we talked about things closer to home; things everyone would know about because we knew the people and the situation. Small town living. If there was a conversation about politics or something that leaped the boundaries of the community, then I remember discussions having a lot of “In my opinion” or I think I heard that” statements.

    I my family at least, we didn’t have cocks who were sure, or cocksuredness. Of course, I was raised in an all-female family, except one lone male who knew to keep his mouth shut when he was done telling his fart-jokes.

    If we had to verify something, the Encyclopedia Britannica weighed down several shelves of one large book case, but we couldn’t afford to buy a new set every 5 years, so we had to rely on whatever was in there, hoping facts hadn’t changed since the volumes were printed. Things didn’t change as quickly back them I’m pretty sure…

    I know for sure that my older sister had all the answers when it came to how we should behave. 😉 We couldn’t look up a counter-argument so we had to go with it.

    I was at a small get-together last evening and the two young people had their head bowed in a prayerful position most of the evening. I would have been impressed had it not been for the smart phones they were holding. I really dislike technology sometimes…

    • January 17, 2012 at 10:26 pm

      Wow Lorna – you had the Encyclopedia Brittanica? I’m jealous. We only had World Book Encyclopedia at my home, which of course was never considered an acceptable reference source when I was in school. I had to high-tail it to the local library to get my hands on a Brittanica. [sigh]

      I have to agree that we did not discuss anywhere near the wide variety of topics that the young ones today seem to be capable of handling because of technology at their fingertips. That very same technology has enabled even us “not-so-young” ones to discuss a much wider range of topics as well. I know it to be true at least for me and my discovery thing.

      OK, so maybe your all female family didn’t wander around with cocksuredness, but I cannot picture you all pussyfooting around in your opinions either…

      • January 25, 2012 at 7:54 pm

        Yup, we were world book too. And my school accepted it. Except when I copied articles word for word…

        • January 26, 2012 at 12:37 pm

          Funny! I will say that even copying the articles word for word, there was some learning involved, since you had no “cut and paste” feature available. Being forced to plagiarize er… type out the text resulted in some osmosis of knowledge, and at least forced you to read as you typed. Now it’s possible to simply highlight several pages of text and paste it onto a work labeled as yours. No BS!

  2. January 17, 2012 at 9:10 am

    To a point, sure it was easier to fabricate a story… But you’re also right that people went based off of memory before. We don’t have to do that now… If were debating if it was George clooney or Robert redford in a movie… You’re right, we Google it. It has perks of course that there’s so much information at our fingertips, but it definitely has a down side.

    • January 17, 2012 at 10:30 pm

      Like all things, there are some downsides, but I think the overall balance of having a lot of information, even if some of it is electronic BS, far outweighs the downsides. I still think people need to have their BS meters running at all times, even in the age of Google.

  3. January 17, 2012 at 11:36 am

    I think Technology has made most more closed mouthed… In the past we were fed a lot of BS because info or the truth was not as easily at hand as it is today…just saying…

    • January 17, 2012 at 10:33 pm

      Certainly the ability to check with ease has made most of us a bit more cautious about making dubious claims. This lesson however has not been absorbed by our political leaders however. They seem to live in an alternate reality.

  4. January 17, 2012 at 11:36 am

    interesting blog by the way…

    • January 17, 2012 at 10:33 pm

      Thank you Doris. Glad you stopped by.

  5. January 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    It’s a two -edged sword – kids can check facts and call out the BS, but the Internet is also filled with BS…

    Thought-provoking!

    • January 17, 2012 at 10:36 pm

      Oh I agree. The Internet has facilitated the ability to tap into information, but it doesn’t mean it is any more accurate. With prolific amounts of information comes a proportional amount of disinformation, which threatens to disrupt and make useless the medium. People still need to have a BS radar when poring through materials on web pages.

  6. January 17, 2012 at 12:29 pm

    Hmmm, am speechless. No bull. Neither is this lamentable state of mine googlable, therefore clearly not verifiable – unless your kids were in earshot.

    U

    • January 17, 2012 at 10:42 pm

      Shall I Google Ursula & Speechless? Nah, probably won’t get any relevant hits. You always strike me as a no bull kind of woman with no fear of calling BS. That’s what I like about you most.

  7. Androgoth
    January 17, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    I think that we more than likely took whatever we were told at face value and used instinct to guide our thoughts on whether or not someone was talking fact or fictional BS, of course that is not a fail-safe method but to be honest I only believe what is credible anyway and were we really all that bothered unless it was something that needed an accurate understanding of? These days the technology is progressing much faster and offers a world of knowledge, and so the prize, it would seem is in the speed of clarification, rather like a wicked pocket sized jigsaw to solve. Still it made an excellent talking point did it not? 🙂

    Have a great rest of evening Phil 🙂

    Androgoth

    • January 17, 2012 at 10:44 pm

      I have to agree with you. Ultimately, we have to make our own judgement call on the accuracy of what we hear or read.

  8. January 17, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    I was bullshitting people before Google and I’ll bullsht them long after Google goes the way of MySpace and Friendster.

    • January 17, 2012 at 10:45 pm

      Now I know why I’ve always liked you!

  9. January 18, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    I’m always googling everything too, but I try not to do it in the middle of a bs’ers bs story, I wait til they’re gone, so does that make me a closet googler?:P It’s harder to get away with bs, it’s harder to get away with anything at all these days with the use of computers and high tech governing just about everything. There’s good and bad that comes with it, but I wish the world wasnt so dependant on them. Have you ever tried to get a prescription filled while the pharmacy’s computers are down? god forbid they actually get out a pen and write an invoice out by hand, it can get a little crazy.
    Welcome back Phil!:)

    ”*°•~ Nikki•°*”˜.•

    • January 20, 2012 at 9:14 am

      I can only imagine the chaos at a pharmacy. 🙂

      Our electronic and mechanical gadgets make us smarter in certain ways and in others more dependent and dumber.

  10. Androgoth
    January 18, 2012 at 7:24 pm

    There are some excellent thoughts on this offering Phil
    and I have enjoyed reading all of them… Have a very nice
    start to your Thursday, and keep posting these gems 🙂

    Androgoth

    • January 20, 2012 at 9:17 am

      Thanks Andro. Always good to see you stop in.

  11. January 18, 2012 at 9:22 pm

    I like the conveniences of technology, how we can fact find but there is the downside to that, much the same as before we had it, with checking facts. Nowadays, almost anyone can be an authority on a topic if they speak eloquently enough. What some people fail in with checking their facts is using the proper sources for checking facts. whether their source is 1st or second-hand information. Whether the author has the right credential to be an “expert”.

    As far as the BS, we’ll be doing that until the end of time. That’s just human nature.

    • January 20, 2012 at 9:24 am

      I have to agree with you Totsy. Lots of info out there, some of it conflicting, and a lot of dubious sources that are not authoritative. The military used the term “disinformation” as a tactic to mislead the enemy. To a degree, there is a lot of misinformation out there in the internet.

      BS as a part of human nature. I wonder what that says about us all, and what evolutionary purpose it serves… 🙂

  12. January 19, 2012 at 3:56 pm

    Very interesting topic you have there Phil. I do believe there were more of the qualifying statements as Lorna suggested in her comment. In the look-it-up department, we had Funk & Wagnalls or something Mom got through Greenstamps, but mostly we did use the library. We went often and if there was a bone of contention, Mom would find that answer. Usually we’d defer to Mom anyway because she was like our personal encyclopedia, her memory was amazing for both relevant and obscure details. She was also especially good about reminding you of embarrassing tidbits of your personal past when it suited. If there was a debate or a game going on, Mom was in it to win it as the saying now goes. She would keep you on your toes and would challenge you. She could spot attempted BS at ten paces.

    Great post Phil…

    • January 20, 2012 at 9:25 am

      I would have loved to meet your mom, Carol. I can see a lot of those traits in you.

  13. Androgoth
    January 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Just calling by to wish you
    and yours a fine weekend Phil 🙂

    Androgoth

    • January 23, 2012 at 1:07 pm

      Andro,

      Thanks for the sentiment. I had an awful, awful cold and bronchitis this weekend. Thought I was going to cough up a kidney. I’m feeling a wee bit better now that I have some anti-biotics doing their thing. Always good to see you swing by my friend.

  14. January 21, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    Phil,
    I am in love with GOOGLE.

    If he were single, I’d marry her!

    XX Kisses for you, dearest. X

    • January 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm

      Kim, you’ve just got me plain confused. Don’t know if it’s the him and her thing with Google or the kisses… Thanks Kim!

  15. January 23, 2012 at 6:33 pm

    I know I grew up in an age where our world was pretty much our street, and our town. On a day to day basis, we didn’t need to know about anything beyond that. We didn’t worry much about verifying facts because our lives pretty much ran on opinions.

    • January 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      As I think about what you say, I have to agree. We were not worldly pundits like the kids today pretend to be, aided by their sidekick search engines. It was way too much work to run off the local library and fact check, so we just went with it and chalked it off as opinions.

  16. January 23, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Google is our guy to go to. We call him Sergei or in Russian Serezha, since the name on of the inventors Sergei and by the way I had to google his full name just now ;).

    • January 25, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      That made me smile. 🙂

  17. Red
    January 23, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    My grandfather bought me a T-shirt when I was ten which seems strangely applicable: If you cannot dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bullshit. I think very little has changed in the intervening decades. For every Google hit with one “fact”, you can find an equal number with refuting “facts”.

    We relied on our parents, peers and all others to tell more truth than we do in this uber-sensationalized age. The scaled back drama, violence, media-spun-non-reality gave us a sense of rationality which has long eroded via Silicone Valley. There is still just as much BS as there was then, but now instead of Uncle Harry telling you the long tale, you can pop up any internet news agency.

    The BS artists in person were always called out, without Google or iPhone. There was always at least one wise person to say, “STFU, you ignorant moron. That is a lie, and you know it.” Today, it is less about calling a liar a liar and more about who can prove they knew first.

    2 more cents,
    Red.

    • January 25, 2012 at 2:20 pm

      Aptly put. There does seem to be a proportionate rise in Bull that matches the rise in facts. So you still need to wade through and make judgments about the credibility of it all.

  18. January 25, 2012 at 12:08 am

    Kids may also be tempted to ask “was there life before Google ?” Or the defining moment of conversion from beast to thinking human came the day Google was invented and man became civilised. Instead of BC perhaps we should talk mark time in terms of BG (before Google).

    • January 25, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      BG – I love it. On the other hand, we risk being labeled as old curmudgeons by the AG generation…

      • Red
        January 30, 2012 at 1:19 am

        I rather like the title curmudgeon. Reminds me of bludgeoning the rapscallions over the head with truth…or anything else handy.

        Idly wonders if the etymology consists of stray dogs and clubs.
        Red.

  19. January 26, 2012 at 1:06 pm

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  20. February 16, 2012 at 2:41 am

    What a fascinating post. I’m so sorry to weigh in late. I’d forgotten all about the Encyclopedias. I look back at those time a bit nostalgically, knowing we could get away with a lot more back then than now. Of course, we’ll always have Nigerian Bankers to check our facts for us.

    • February 16, 2012 at 1:32 pm

      I do think we might have gotten away with more in the past, but it also seems as though we discussed far fewer things that we purported to have expertise with. Nowadays, it seems everyone is an expert on just about any topic. It’s as though they believe they are a genius simply because they have their pocket pal iPhone with Google.

      • February 16, 2012 at 5:23 pm

        Yes, in some ways, I think we’ve become dumber.

  21. WordsFallFromMyEyes
    September 2, 2012 at 12:50 am

    A very interesting read, & so timely to me today!! BS… ah, BS…

    My son came home the other day to tell me ‘bicyclist’ is NOT a word (as I had insisted the day before, it was). I said “Google it” and he did. He discovered it was indeed a word, & then said how is he supposed to believe his teacher then, because his teacher said “that’s not a word”??? I admit ‘bicyclist’ isn’t as common, but it’s a word.

    We can Google anything.

    I think people ARE STILL inclined to BS though, knowing only a dedicated few would do their fact-finding in cross-check. Some people derive much joy from spouting BS!
    🙂

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