Learning v. Discovery

I’m splitting hairs today.

“Discover” is an overused word. Too many of us throw it around. How many times today have you discovered a story on the Internet, a video on YouTube, or a new function on your phone? We tell our friends about the “new” restaurant we “discovered” or the television series we are only now “discovering” after our social network recommended it.

But do we really discover these things? Sure, we didn’t know about it until the moment that we did, but we can assume these videos were seen, restaurants were eaten at, and television shows were watched before we knew of them. To be put another way, did Christopher Columbus “discover” new lands or did he just become the next person to set foot there?


As we promote much of the trivia that fills our day, we can overlook actual moments of discovery. We have so much information at our hands that there is rarely a fact that we cannot find. The level of “discovery” that I share with others, hear about in conversations, and see among users of social media is immense. For me this takes a bit of the magic out of life. Each time I Google a bit of information I feel hollow afterwards, as if I ate a bag of chips hoping to be satiated. It’s the regret of possessing the answer but knowing that I came about it the cheap way, taking a shortcut.


The truth is we are changing the meaning of “discovery” a little more each day, weakening it through overuse. So why do we use it? Does it make us feel a bit more adventurous even though we never left our desks? Does it give us a sense of leadership or authority as if we now know what no one else does?

I think so. I think that with so much knowledge at our fingertips, many of us do not want to admit that we did not know something. We want to present facts as if they came from us and not through us, which is one reason, I think, that we Tweet news stories so often. While we credit the news source (at least you should if you are a responsible tweeter) we also repurpose it, giving it our own spin. In reality we never discovered these things. In many instances we more accurately knew of them.


Moving forward, I think we should try our best to remove “discover” from our collective vocabulary along with “found” and “unearthed”. Instead we should try our best to say “learned” since that is what we are all doing – learning. Let’s leave discovery to those rare moments in our lives when we actually do find something.


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