One of my first jobs out of college was working in tech support. Comparable to retail, but customers were often less pleasant since there was no face-to-face. People rarely called the hotline because they lacked social interactions; I’m sure some did. We had Myspace at this time but no Facebook. When customers had problems, they wanted a fix yesterday! There wasn’t a lot of time to review the instruction manual.
If it was an error message, we gathered ordinary things such as the error log, the number of users affected, etc. You commonly see the same messages over and over again. Occasionally, something unique would pop up. After gathering notes, protocol instructed us to search the knowledge base and past incidents. As a rookie, it was impossible to understand the software entirely. Meaning I constantly searched for answers. In the early 2000s, the phrase “did you google that?” wasn’t a thing.
Trying Something New
A few months ago, I wanted to develop a writing habit. One suggestion I found was to turn off spelling and grammar checks. Turning them off helps remove the distraction of the red squiggly line. Wow, I learned my ability to spell while typing at high speed was terrible. I’m talking Matrix 4 bad. Has spell checker made me lazy? I doubt it; maybe it reduced my spelling ability to a fifth-grader.
When someone comes to me with a problem, I routinely ask if they found anything on google without giving it much thought. I’ve been reconsidering this gut reaction.
Maybe they wanted to get my opinion or think through a problem with someone else. Or they wanted social interaction with another human. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t at least try and find the information that will lead us to a solution. Possibly if someone hasn’t searched on the internet, they are trying to challenge themselves by solving the problem, not simply finding the answer.
Doing hard stuff hurts your brain. Remember high school? I don’t, but my oldest son is going through it now. How often did you begin working on a math problem only to give up a few minutes later?
In this new year, I’ll try not to give in to my initial reaction and assume someone asking me for help hasn’t put in the work. Also, I’ll try and solve problems without visiting Stackoverflow within the first five minutes.
Please let me know in the comments below your thoughts on searching for answers online as the first line of defense.