Technology “bah-humbug”?

At a Christmas party I attended last weekend a discussion evolved about the “curse” of Google and the accessibility of information children have today. Being a “glass half full” person my position quickly morphed into supporting the availability of information and the fact that like anything, it can be a blessing or a curse, depending on how one uses it.

In 1897 a little girl named, Virginia O’Hanlon wrote the following letter to the New York Sun newspaper.

Dear Editor—

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, “If you see it in The Sun, it’s so.” Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O’Hanlon

Little Virginia did not have Google, or television for that matter. The newspaper was “the” source of information for current events, in fact commercial radio did not become available until the 1920’s.

The famous reply, written by Francis P. Church of the Sun started like this: “Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age.” (Read the rest of the reply at http://www.newseum.org/yesvirginia/ )

But have we all become affected by the scepticism of a sceptical age?

A simple Google search asking the question “Is Santa Claus real?” generated 33,400,000 hits and the first entry is a video of Santa coming down the chimney: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dp7zWs8fHeE

In fact there are more entries validating the existence of Santa than not. (At least in the first 4-5 pages) So what does that say about technology and information?

  • Information is exactly that, information, not necessarily fact
  • One must interpret, analyze and draw conclusions based on information
  • All conclusions are not created equal
  • Scepticism in a sceptical age can be a blessing or a curse. Depends on you.

My best to all for a Merry Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrate) and a prosperous 2012.

3 replies
  1. Candice Russell
    Candice Russell says:

    Skip — Thank you for sharing this post. I never actually wondered where the saying came from, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” but I am glad to now know the story. Are you saying there isn’t really a Santa Claus?

    I read the original article and I cannot help but think that Francis P. Church would have been an excellent blogger, although I don’t think that today’s 8 year olds could really follow his answer.

    I agree with your glass half full approach. We quite frequently look up various items on our iPad during family dinners … recent topics have run the gamut from technology (How many channels does a walkie talkie have, and why?) to current events (Did you see today’s picture on The Guardian Eyewitness?) to history (What happened to the children of Marie Antionette?). I cannot help but wonder how all of this immediate access to information will shape my son’s view of the world.

    Reply
    • Skip Henk
      Skip Henk says:

      The immediate access to information I believe is a major asset. Think about your family dinners and how much technology has enriched them. Whether it be my 9 year old daughter or my 16 year old son, if they have a question I can’t answer I simply ask them to google it and let me know what the answer is, so that we both know.

      And yes, there is a Santa.

      Reply
  2. Michele Musto
    Michele Musto says:

    Being an IT Professional, I find that technology is a necessary tool. Whether troubleshooting a problem at work or trying to find the best Christmas Cookie Recipe. It can be used for good or bad. Our children have a massive amount of information available to them, they just need the skills and morals to use it wisely!

    Reply

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