I’ve mentioned before that Google is my most trusted, objective, nonjudgmental life coach/therapist/doctor/tax advisor. That might seem a little strange, but I grew up with Google. It’s been a faithful friend during my most inquisitive years, and it’s been a dependable confidante even when I’ve asked questions like, “Why is my period blood so dark?” “What does a ruptured appendix feel like?” and “What’s the name of that hot writer guy from Sex and the City who looks like that guy from Early Edition but isn’t him?” But growing up with the Internet and living in the age of social media robs us of our chill. As people trying to live in this rapidly diversifying technological landscape, we still get a thrill out of curiosity now and then. At some point or another, you – like me – have probably indulged in the suspense and intrigue of not Googling something.

Do you remember when you actually had to use books to find information? Back in the day, if you wanted to learn how to get rid of a blackhead, you had to go through the trouble of going to the library (presumably with all your blackheads), looking through the card catalog for a book on blackhead removal, enduring the librarian looking at you nose like, “Ew, yeah, you really need this book,” while you check it out, and then reading a book about removing blackheads that may not have good images or answer any questions you have. I didn’t have to do that very much of my life, but I imagine it was hell. I suspect there were fewer murders and more undiagnosed STDs in those days.


In the world BG — Before Google — you had to talk to other human beings to learn about things that might be uncomfortably revelatory. Or use your Microsoft Encarta CD-ROM. I don’t want my friends to know how many synonyms I need on a daily basis. I don’t want to double-check a Kanye lyric through a coworker. I definitely don’t want to ask my mom about how boob contouring works. Google is a lifesaver, because even though we can be reasonably sure the government has our most problematic searches on file, at least those are strangers we don’t have to see on a daily basis. I’d rather some government employee be aware I Google murderers and plane crashes and celebrity sex tapes (just out of curiosity!) than say, my boss or my barista.

But sometimes Google can suck the mystery out of life, because all the info you could ever want is within reach as long as you string together the right search terms. I mean, Google can’t teach you to how not to be an jerk or expose the truth about unsolved crimes (Google knows I’ve tried looking for new leads on JonBenet Ramsey more than I care to admit), but it can totally find the Facebook profile of this awesome new person you just started dating. Google can spoil a TV show you’ve been impatiently waiting to watch on Netflix with your partner. In a lot of ways, Google removes the thrill of finding things out the old fashioned way that often entails asking questions and enduring embarrassment and surprise. Now we’re all just in our basements and on our iPhones learning all kinds of stuff with reckless abandon.


I’ve started Conscious Ungoogling. It’s nothing like Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin, so you don’t have to hate it just yet. Conscious ungoogling is when you come across a question – anything you don’t know – and choose to not Google because A) It’s not essential for you to know it right now and B) It’s kind of exciting to revel in your ignorance and make up your own explanation. Part B is what’s really missing in our society today, if you ask me. We have access to so much information that for so many topics, you can find out if you’re right and wrong with just a few clicks. It’s great if you’re trying to win an argument, but it’s a lot less cool if you’re spoilering your own learning process. Back in the day, if you were wrong about something it could take years of wrongdoing and deaths for you to find out. Here’s lookin’ at you, homebuilders using asbestos.

The other day I was walking to the train when a weird, unprovoked thought came into my mind as these things do when you least expect them. I realized that I have no idea how newborn babies get their Social Security number and Social Security card. “Katie, that’s a really unsexy thought to have, why didn’t you ask yourself instead how birds have sex?” Well, yes, I wonder about that sometimes, too, but on this particular day it was babies and their national identification for tax purposes. I assume the hospital gives it to you — along with the kid’s birth certificate and a pamphlet on breastfeeding – as part of the new human being starter pack or something, but I have no idea if that’s true. What if you have to apply for one with the government? Are all the people who have procreated really diligent enough to know to do that? Do people have undocumented children because they didn’t know they have to do that? I DON’T KNOW!

I could Google this. I’m 100% sure the answer to this is on the Internet. There’s probably a forum out there where expectant mothers are griping right now about wanting to get their baby’s Social Security number the “natural way.” I opened Google ready to type, “How do babies get Social Security numbers?” but I stopped when my finger was hovering over the “h” key. Someday I’ll need to find this out if I have a baby or sign up to be a contestant on Wheel of Boring, Procedural Information, but right now I don’t need to know. By not Googling, I can still wonder if maybe every one who’s had a baby had to murder someone, because freeing up a Social Security number is the only way to get one for your baby.


What I’m trying to say is, sometimes it’s satisfying to abstain from Google and arrive at your own (likely incorrect) conclusions, so long as you don’t post them on Facebook like everyone else does. So the next time you can’t think of that actor’s name, you’re unsure of a lyric, or you think have a life-threatening disease, take a chance and just go with the flow! Make it up as you go along! Consciously ungoogling is surprisingly fun. Plus, you’ll be lightening the workload for the NSA.

Do NOT spoil how babies get their Social Security numbers. I’m kind of enjoying thinking about parents profiling who they’re going to kill so their baby can be a legitimate, identified citizen. What questions/topics have you left ungoogled? I want to this be an open, Google-free comment section.

Images: pinkydinkyme/Tumblr; Giphy 

40 thoughts on “Conscious Ungoogling: The Suspense and Intrigue of Not Googling Things

  1. Murdering someone so your kid can have a SSN sounds the making of a terrific fiction novel. It could follow the SSN from person to person and you start to feel like the number is more important than any one human being. I would read that.

  2. The best thing to do is talk to kids – they’ll come up with really ingenious answers. And questions too. When my daughter was very young, she said how do we see when our eyes are closed?You can’t, I said. ‘How do we see dreams or even our imaginations then’ she asked? I haven’t googled that till date. 😉

  3. Haha, world came to an end hitting Enter on the Google site. These GIFs look so much better on WordPress than on tumblr. Actual substance.

    Gosh. I have so much backlog in ungoogled questions not having internet for so long, I don’t know where to begin…and…they’re forgotten.

    1. Doesn’t that stress you out though? I blame technology for my search engine ADD, but I’ll sitting on the couch and think of something great I need to read about ASAP, check Twitter, and then it’s gone. Who knows how many questions of mine have gone ungoogled.

  4. This is so awesome! I am obsessed with Googling random things, so it would be a difficult habit for me to break. Whenever I want to search for song lyrics, news updates, actors names, or that movie I can’t remember the name of, I always use Google. It would be an interesting experiment to not use Google for these things and allow myself to just not know those answers and make up my own.

  5. I think my favorite part of “back in the day” was my blissful ignorance, Katie. I didn’t care that I didn’t know how much I didn’t know as I watched my 10 channels of TV and rode my bike to the public library to take out novels my father actually suggested to me and talked to my friends about sports and school and girls as we stayed outside until the street lights came on or our moms called us inside for dinner with their really loud voices that carried five, six, eight houses down.

    1. You hit the nail on the head. Because once you realize there’s more to know, not knowing suddenly feels so inadequate. It has its positives and negatives.

  6. OH MY GAWD… Best post EV-ER. I am a Google addict. I Google the crap out of things. Any random thought and I am compelled to find out more about it. People are sometimes surprised at the amount of random trivia I know which I’m totally baffled by because… hello… Google? I swear it’s made me smarter… or just better able to BS my way through a conversation I would otherwise know nothing about.

    1. I am too! Like… It would disgrace my family to see the things I’ve Googled. Isn’t it great when someone tries to drop some random fact that you know isn’t true, and they’re like, “Look it up,” and little do they know you spent an hour lying awake in bed reading everything about it just last night.

  7. 1. Microsoft Encarta CD-ROM… Do you remember the game that was included with that gem? MIND MAZE?! Loved it.
    2. The last time my dad drove out to visit for the weekend, he brought me two boxes full of 1992 encyclopedias…After staring at him blankly for a few minutes – I decided to keep them and force my child to do reports the old fashioned way, like I had to.
    3. I wish I got to kill someone to provide my son with a social security number…(only cause I had someone in mind at the time, not because I’m a creep or murderer).

    1. Mind maze… It sounds familiar, but I can’t picture it. It was so frustrating trying to find things in a book! We take CTRL-F for granted.

  8. In elementary school there was a specific day each year on which we were encourage to abstain from tv. That would be an interesting idea for your anti-googling. Hey, so you ever play that gam where you just type in th beginning of a question and see what choices come up? Like type, “Why does my…”

    1. I have done that! The results always concern me because I don’t know if they’re populated by trends or my own personal search history… Either way, it’s disturbing stuff. I can’t imagine going a day without Google. My gosh. That would be an interesting experiment.

  9. The wonk in me loves Google. Finding out where old words and phrases originated is awesome. And geography! My knowledge of African geography would be nonexistent without Google.
    On the other hand…I wish I had never Googled “snuff films.”

  10. Man, I could never do that. My insomnia is bad enough as it is, without having to lie awake all night trying to remember where I know x or y actor from. And don’t get me started on what my relationship would be like if we couldn’t figure out instantaneously which one of us is right :p

    1. Well, don’t get me wrong, I haven’t totally given it up! Google is the glue that keeps the petty disagreements in my relationship from getting out of hand, so I totally relate.

  11. I’ve been known to refer to Google as my boyfriend because I love him and I couldn’t do anything without him.
    Now that I’ve actually articulated all that, I feel alarmingly anti-feminist… I’m going to go think about my life choices for a little bit.

  12. This is so great, there used to be a column in the Guardian Newspaper in England called…oh NO I’ve forgotten and i can’t google it! Anyway, people would write in with questions and then other people would answer (sometimes the world expert who happened to also be a guardian reader) one I can remember is “why don’t penguin’s feet freeze?” They are some books published of the best questions and answers

  13. Kudos to you for being HILARIOUS as usual.

    I totally agree with your thoughts on the thrill of making new discoveries the old fashioned way; my main source to most information still happens to be books and talking to different people. Its amazing the kind of intel you get when you interact with different kinds of people, because you aren’t just receiving general information, you’re getting to experience how they feel about everything as well.
    Sure, thats what social media is all about too. But contrary to the networking websites, there’s something about getting a firsthand personal opinion that can’t really be faked.

    However, all of the above doesn’t necessarily mean I don’t enjoy the let’s-Google-something-stupid moment once in a while. Because I don’t want to go looking into books or asking other people when all I want to know is when the next Hunger Games movie’s coming out.

  14. Hi, I think your blog posts are HILARIOUS. Google is the enemy lol. I really look forward to reading more of your work… Fantastic. Don’t stop.
    Also, if you have the time, could you please return the favor by liking/commenting my blog posts and maybe I might be lucky and get a follow from you? Would be great 🙂 have an awesome day

  15. Just when you think you’re the only one in 7 billion people to feel a certain way…BAM! A blog posts makes you realize you’re not the only one who also attempts to avoid Googling to see if you’re brain can fire they same synapses it does during a game of Sudoku. Lovely post, as always!

  16. Every time someone dies, a Social Security card gets its wings. Sorry to spoil it for you. (Google has my name embedded right in it, so I’m almost related to the Thing That Knows Everything. Ask my family. Google and Wikepedia have my back.)

    I am one of those people who go to the last page of a mystery to find out whodunit. I can’t help it. And since I get old-timers more than once in awhile, and have trouble even remembering why I loaded up Google in the first place (this is an offshoot of going to the fridge and not having a clue as to why you’re there) I need it.

    It can tell me why I’m loading it- Google has psychic powers.

    It even knows ‘What the hell are the Walloons?’ This is a real search I needed to do for a post on phobias I wrote. I wasn’t even thinking the word ‘hell’, but Google must have been frustrated with them. The residents of Walloonville can be obnoxious.

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