the quest for life’s answers
A sad fact of life is that we will inevitably both get hurt by and hurt someone who close to us. It’s unavoidable; the Fates have woven this truth into our lives, and our tea leaves will always foretell this and other fuck-ups in our futures. Hurting a friend is especially brutal because intimacy removes the shields that could have lessened the injury if a stranger had caused harm. When this happens, we must heal the pain and try to make up for our wrongs. But where will we get the inspiration we need to face what destiny holds for us?
Will we find it on Google?
Search “how to rebuild a friendship” on Google like I did last year. Among the top results might be a page on Wikihow called “How to Fix a Broken Friendship,” which includes nine steps (“1. Think about the situation,” “2. Talk to him/her,” “3. Take initiative,” etc.) accompanied by high-quality artwork. Or, you might decide to consult another top result, such as a link to an article on Wall Street Journal’s website titled “Delicate Art of Fixing a Broken Friendship.” The web page you will find here is much wordier, but if you are in a hurry, the page includes a handy text box labeled “Make-Up Kit,” which lists a few useful tips. Or, you might instead use Google to find web pages from Quora and similar sites to look for questions along the lines of these real examples from Yahoo Answers: “How to mend a broken friendship?”, “How to fix my friendship?”, and “How can I fix a friendship?” Some of the people who post questions on these websites elaborate on their situations, while others do not provide many details.
I have considered posting my own questions on sites where anonymous users can offer their ideas, but I find it difficult to accurately express who I am and to fully convey the details of my troubles. Instead, I have, at times, embarked on long journeys through Google to find the answers I needed to life’s messy situations, and I’ve conducted searches such as “how to get closure,” “is it ever ok to hurt someone,” and others that are way too embarrassing to reveal here. I always seem to find something on Google, whether it’s an article or a Quora page.
Surely it’s great that resources exist online for people who face emergencies and intense crises. Also, there seems to be useful information available on life’s problems from people who seem like they know what they’re talking about, like psychologists and other professionals. And when I see a user on Quora ask, “How can I choose a field to devote my life to?”, I am reminded of the fact that we are tied to each other by the common issues that confront us.
But in the days before Google, where did people find their wisdom? Didn’t people go on journeys to achieve enlightenment? Or did they rely on books, whether they were treatises by philosophers grappling with life’s biggest questions or stories with characters who can teach lessons through the examples they lead? Did people talk to their parents? To their mentors and teachers? People they trusted? If they still do this, if they still rely on the people in their lives, then why do they seek help from strangers?
I understand that sometimes, people do not have anyone in their lives whom they can trust with certain issues and that the internet works as a great option for them. But I also worry that, in an age when we are used to getting the quickest results with the least difficulty, we might be hoping for too much if we try to get answers to life’s most complex difficulties in the same way we would find a new vacuum cleaner or directions to the closest CVS. When I see posts on Yahoo answers such as “What will happen when we die?” and message boards on askville.com where people discuss personal details about their families, I realize that the Internet is not the place for this.
There’s another problem: I sometimes seek answers on Google for things that have already happened. I do this to compare what I’ve done to the tips provided by people in situations similar to the ones I’ve been in. I want reassurance that I acted in a suitable way, that I didn’t do the wrong thing, that I didn’t completely fuck up. I don’t just want guidance. But, through this, I allow troubles from my past to continue to haunt me. Google does not liberate me from heavy hardships but instead traps me in my own mind.
Why, months ago, during a messy time in my life, did I seek wisdom from Google and not the people in my own life? Perhaps I was scared to be vulnerable. Maybe I didn’t want to bother the people I knew. Maybe I was so used to looking for what felt like everything through Google that I forgot Google cannot actually give me everything.
I remember a personal crisis from a long while ago. At the time, my teacher learned that I was falling behind in class. He asked me what was troubling me. He assured me that I could tell him anything. I felt weak. I don’t know how else to describe the mixture of feelings I experienced: a sense of failure from not being able to handle my issues without my teacher’s help, shame from letting my difficulties interfere with my academic responsibilities, and pain I could not relieve despite all my efforts. But once I opened up, I felt better. My teacher helped me in a way no one else could have. He commended my solo efforts and gave me wise advice. He also assured me that everything would be okay. Thanks to him, I was able to escape from my misery.
I remember the other instances in which I sought help from people in my life. I’m so grateful for those times, even if those instances weren’t easy. I’m thankful that I have people in my life who’ve helped me through difficulties and who I’m sure will be there for me when I face issues in the future. I must never forget this when new conflicts arise. After all, my friends, not Google, helped me through my hardship from several months ago. My friends knew me, they knew the situation regarding my troubled friendship well (and even if they didn’t know all the details, it was easy to fully convey my predicament to them because of how well they knew me), and they gave me great advice along with words of consolation.
Terrible things will happen to us, and we will do terrible things to each other. But that is okay. We will recover, we will forgive ourselves, we will do better next time. We must; it’s part of who we are. But healing will not come from the written messages of faceless strangers we turn to while we wear the shield of anonymity. We have to let our guards down, despite how much pain we feel, and let the people who care for us treat our wounds. The help we need is often closer than we realize; it just can’t be reached through a few keystrokes and the click of a mouse.