So a Facebook friend of mine shared this tired meme and it sort of triggered me. And I’m in a particularly Sithy-but-also-philosophical sort of mood today, so decided that instead of commenting on the post and giving the Facebook algorithms the activity they want, I’d gather my thoughts separately.
I “get” the joke behind the above meme. I do. I just think the joke makes certain horrible assumptions about what does and does not qualify as “using your brain.”
Me being triggered isn’t specifically about THIS meme. It may be a little more about a series of similar “only smart people can do this…” memes posted by said friend and a few others recently. There is just this general weirdness around these bizarre little judgment calls regarding the intelligence of others based on another person’s skill set. And the notion that a person who uses a calculator for what YOU consider “basic math” is one of those irritating judgment calls.
I can manage basic math in my head just fine. But I have friends with learning disabilities who struggle with math. And frankly you don’t need a learning disability to sometimes pick up a calculator to do what the damn thing was invented for: calculate something. I spend half my day playing with numbers. You can damn well bet I will use a calculator to make my job easier and more efficient.
Because, sure, being able to do mathematical equations in your head is a useful talent. But it doesn’t make you necessarily “smarter” than other people. And it certainly doesn’t mean someone is stupid for not being able (or wanting to) do math in their head.
In all seriousness. When was the last time we recipe-shamed a cook for using a written recipe? I cook all the time without recipes, but I don’t get a weird sense of pride by shaming people who need a recipe to follow. My nephew can assemble most things without reading assembly instructions. That is a great talent, but I certainly wouldn’t make a push that everyone should throw away the assembly instructions to things and “use their brains.”
Intelligence is using the best tools you have to get the task done quickly, correctly, and efficiently. And if that means picking up a device that was designed explicitly for the purpose of doing exactly the task you are about to do, that IS using your brain.
We all have a tendency to view the world through our own life experiences. There is a built-in assumption that somehow our experiences are “normal” and that everyone else should adhere to that norm. This “use a calculator” thing is along the same lines as the “kids can’t read an analog clock! The world is going to end!” or “Why are you always messaging people? You have no social skills and don’t know how to have a real conversation.” or “Put that tablet down and read a real book!” It’s stupid and elitist and nonsensical. We all develop the skills we need for the space we occupy. Your space is not the same as mine. And mine is not the same as yours.
So lets make a deal. You stop looking down your nose at people using calculators, and I’ll stop judging the grammar in your memes. Deal?