I ‘m sure it’s an indicator of my utter cluelessness, but I only recently heard the expression FSoG.
Initially I tried to make that first letter of stand for the oh-so-obvious word indicated by such acronyms as STFU or LMTFA or even the charmingly old-school FU.
Look up FSoG today and the first umpteen Google listings will be for the steamy S&M novel that allegedly has American women all atwitter, “Fifty Shades of Grey.” The book also — allegedly — gives atrocious a new meaning when it comes to writing.
Anyway, scroll down and eventually you’ll come across what now must stand as the second meaning, “Five Seconds on Google.” According to UrbanDictionary.com (in a 2008 post), “FSoG is an acronym for five seconds on Google, used mainly to tell people who ask inane questions to go look it up for themselves.”
Inane. I remember when earnest teachers used to say, “There are no stupid questions,” urging students to inquire. There is — allegedly — a Chinese proverb that says, “He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes; he who does not ask a question remains a fool forever.”
But now we’re in the age of instant knowledge, and — allegedly; sorry, I’ll stop now — the very idea of asking a question of an actual human being makes you inane. An idiot. “There are no stupid questions. Just stupid people who don’t spend FSoG. Dude.”
I know I’m over the hill because I’m one of those fools who still ask questions. It’s deeply ingrained habit, one that draws expressions varying from amused sympathy to barely concealed derision to annoyance among those much younger than I.
“Oh, right,” I say, turning back to the keyboard like a swatted child. “Duh. FSoG. Sorry, man.”
And then ticky-tacky, a few keystrokes, and voila! (Or vwa-lah, as one young person who did not do her FSoG diligence recently wrote me in an email.) Answers, baby! Shiny, delicious answers, right in front of me. Best to crosscheck, of course, given the unreliability of certain sources, even — gasp — the ever-useful Wikipedia, but still. (And never, ever trust any post on Facebook without checking it out; it’s remarkable how often those things turn out to be fake or incorrectly sourced or whatever.)
Listen, I like all this instantaneous knowing as much as you. I really do. Though I’m actually afraid of the technology that makes it so. Geez, I don’t even understand how a toaster works. And airplanes obviously can’t fly; that’s just an illusion. And there is no FSoGin’ way that the Internet can provide all those answers in one second (any longer and I get very, very impatient…).
Still, FSoG does not come without a price.
Annoying as it may have been, having to go to the “library” — a curious place where you went to borrow “books” — and thumb through “encyclopedias” was an exercise in patience. I even remember when polite young men in suits and ties wandered around neighborhoods selling encyclopedias (and Fuller brushes — FSoG!)
Patience is, truly, a virtue. “Forbearance” is said to be one of the “fruits of the Spirit” in Paul’s letter to the Galatians (no, I didn’t have to Google that). It is also considered a virtue in Buddhism, Taoism and other Eastern religions (nope).
And actually, mystery can be a genuine pleasure. For me, not knowing is a refreshing novelty; it almost feels like a little “high.”
Every weekend I myself partake of a little mystery. From sundown Friday to dark on Saturday, I refrain from going online. On Friday nights, it’s amazing how many absolutely urgent questions arise in my hot, impatient little brain. They must be answered now. I feel intense pressure, an itchy, uncomfortable need to know … but I resist. And by Saturday morning, the compulsion has diminished. By Saturday afternoon I relish my “stupidity” and think seriously about heaving the cell phone and laptop into the creek.
In his fascinating book, “The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains,” Boulder writer Nicholas Carr argues that our intensely online lives are re-grooving how we think and live. It’s harder for us to concentrate on just one thing. We bounce from email to phone to laptop, even as we “talk” to our spouses while watching TV and eat “dinner.” Online, we are skipping constantly from link to link, indulging a moment’s boredom, every passing whim and desire for more information.
Studies show that all this alleged “multi-tasking” actually decreases performance; recognizing this, some companies have instituted “email free Fridays.” If you’re like me, you have plenty of anecdotal evidence to back that up.
But if anything, I am more distressed by what FSoG means for simple human interaction. Grandparents, parents, older sisters and brothers, favorite teachers — instant knowledge has diminished their role in bringing us up and introducing us to the world’s wonders (not to mention its horrors, tragedies and absurdities). We used to go their knees and learn not just facts, but how to interact and communicate. We received cues, no matter how subtle, that would serve us well when we later became friendly neighbors or uncles or clergy who could provide more than answers. I don’t care how fast Google or Bing or Yahoo are. They can’t replace human connection.
What’s the answer? I suppose some would say there’s no problem.
But I recommend trying the “technology sabbath” trick and seeing how you like it. And perhaps we should all make a point to go back to people who were once mentors and … just ask.
It can’t hurt to ask, can it?