THE BLOG
03/15/2013 11:30 am ET Updated May 15, 2013

Common Sense Off Course

Last month, I read about Sabine Moreau, the Belgian woman who blamed her GPS for getting her lost trying to pick up a friend in Brussels. The trip was about 90 miles and should have taken a couple of hours. Ms. Moreau, however, following her GPS instructions, managed to go through five international borders and wound up in Zabreb, Croatia, a trip of not 90 but 900 miles.

About a year and a half ago, Lauren Rosenberg, a Los Angeles native, was visiting Utah. When the walking directions provided by Google Maps sent her onto Deer Valley Drive, better known as State Highway 224, she was hit by a car and sued Google, even though Google has a disclaimer warning about the unreliability of its walking directions. The court subsequently dismissed the case.

Last year, three Japanese tourists in Australia drove to North Stradbroke Island, following their GPS instructions. They encountered difficulty, however, when they drove into Moreton Bay and their car became flooded with water.

Here were presumably intelligent people, all going seriously off course because they followed information given them on their mobile device. I wondered why each wouldn't have heeded the normal warning bells that should have gone off. After passing through just one international boundary, why didn't Sabine Moreau turn around? She said she was "distracted" and just kept on going, noting: "When I passed Zagreb, I told myself I should turn around." Yuzu Noda, one of the Japanese tourists, explained the joint decision to drive their car directly into the bay by saying, "[the GPS] told us we could drive there." When Lauren Rosenberg got onto Deer Valley Road, in the dark, where there were no sidewalks, she decided to continue her journey down the middle of the road.

I remember reading each of these stories over the past few years, finding them fascinating psychologically. Where was, for lack of a better term, their common sense? If you're going to pick up a friend two hours away, why do you cross five borders before you turn around? If you want to go to an island, why don't you use the bridge instead of driving your car straight into the water? If you want to take a walk, don't you know you still need to keep your wits about you, especially at night?

Then, I read another article the other day that put all of these into perspective for me. It was from the UK Telegraph, entitled, "How Grandparents Are Being Replaced by Google." Apparently, a survey found people, kids especially, are foregoing the time-honored tradition of asking advice from family members and, instead, are choosing to rely on the Internet. If I had been Lauren Roseberg, my grandmother would have warned me not to walk down the middle of a road -- any road -- at night. If I'd asked for directions from Uncle Steve to get across town to pick up a friend, he would have quickly drawn a map on the back of a napkin or paper towel that would have kept me from international travel. And if my mother had been in the car in Australia, she would have screamed at the top of her lungs and called me a few choice words before she'd have let me drive into a body of water.

Each of these people chose information over wisdom. Wisdom is what you get from a grandparent or your Uncle Steve or, heaven forbid, even your mother. Family members may not know as much flotsam and jetsam as the Internet, but they've been around the block a few times and have learned a thing or two. I'm not saying to ignore the Internet, certainly not. What I am suggesting is it's not backward or luddite to use a real person for a second option on digital advice. Use a family member whenever you can, but don't forget you can also use yourself.

For more by Dr. Gregory Jantz, Ph.D., click here.

For more GPS for the Soul, click here.

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