“Google is your friend.”
“Let me Google that for you.”
Part of conversation is an exchange of information, it’s true. Is it the most important part? It’s possible, though it is most likely a subjective evaluation that says something about the person in question.
Social networks, message boards, even instant messages are an attempt to move communication to another medium. You know all of this already, I’m just laying the groundwork.
I used to ask my mom a lot of questions. Once it got past the incessant Why? stage, and once I’d gotten to the point where I could read, and largely guess the spelling of words I didn’t know outright, her answers to my questions were almost invariably, “Look it up.” Thanks to the Collier encyclopedia set in the living room, I usually did just that. So I understand the value of finding your own answers to understand it better. Searching the archives can lead to useful related searches, even trivial distractions where you learn something completely unrelated.
That said, if I were in the middle of a conversation with someone, talking about, say, movies, and he brought up a movie I hadn’t heard of, I would be insulted if his response to my curiosity was, “Look it up.” And he wouldn’t do that if the conversation were of any value to him.
I understand that online conversations are a different beast, that there isn’t the same flow to break up, but I find the result of someone telling me to google something that they brought up, that they are obviously passionate about, to be the same.
No, I’m not going to look it up. You brought it up, so the onus is on you to explain it. I don’t care if I’m just asking to be polite or if I’m genuinely interested in what you have to say. I’m not asking you because I’m too lazy to look it up, I’m asking you because the conversation we’re having right now is more worth my time than spending time on Google hearing what someone I didn’t initiate a conversation with thinks about a subject. If you bring up some obscure or unfamiliar entity and then act like it’s too much work to even explain what you’re talking about, beyond a pithy comment to look it up, it’s best just not to bring it up.
Polite conversation is not dead, but sometimes it feels like it’s on life support.