Thursday, August 30, 2007


If I have met you and you have made an impression on me, and you possess a relatively distinctive name and some internet presence (who doesn't, these days?) I have probably looked you up on Google. Not once, several times.

This is something the people I know and like do as a matter of course. Last night a friend said something about what if Google started telling people who had searched for them and then we both said something about how we would be screwed, unable to hold up our heads for the embarrassment of it all.

(There is a historical precedent for this. Friendster, the pioneering social networking site, switched, without notification, to allowing people to see who had viewed their profile. I spent the first fifteen minutes after I found out trying to remember who the hell I had looked at recently. Then, of course, I dove for the computer to see who had looked me up.)

This is probably something that everyone does; it's why social networking sites exist, after all.

So why am I so embarrassed by it?

(When I looked to see who had been viewing my profile on Friendster I found, strangely enough, that I assumed of other people what I knew to be (mostly) true about myself -- that they were bored and mildly curious to see what I had been up to. This surprised me; I had expected to assume that they were totally obsessed with me.)

I do take it to extremes. A friend once hinted that he might have a blog and armed with no more than what I knew about him, which was not that much, and that fact, I went hunting for that blog. Four hours later I found it.

Also, a little embarrassing is that a lot of the time, having found someone, I make contact. I couldn't exactly tell you why.

But even when I just do a quick two-minute Google search, no varying the terms, no pages viewed past two or three, no contact to be made, still I feel odd about it. Odd to be carrying around this desire to know exactly what happened to that guy in college that I never liked because he thought he was cooler than anyone. Also odd given the people I am in touch with, the people I like and fail -- why spend time on people I didn't know that well even when I knew them?


Noko Marie said...

In the spirit of the post I tried to google K. I. T. but I couldn't get past "kit." Google's not so good with punctuation. Or maybe it is and I'm just not a sophisticated searcher. Actually that is more likely.

I'm curious what will happen with social networking sites and the generation gaps. I'm 40; no one I know my age has a page on any social networking site - at least, not that I know of. But the 20-year olds I know, it's like their whole life.

Are young people going to become less interested as they get older? Are older people going to sign up? Or will there be forever this generation gap: born after 198X, you're into it, born before, you're not?

And Captain C, are you right on the boundary line, generation-wise? Maybe this relevant to your generational reflections ?

Captain Colossal said...

I was thinking about what will happen with social networking as well, because I just set up a facebook page. And I was hunting around and there wasn't really anybody I knew on there, other than the kindly folk who invited me, as opposed to friendster where back in that spring of 2003 it seemed like pretty much everybody I had ever met was already there. Here it was all young people. It scared me. But I'm not sure if more people my age will sign up.

I also was thinking about where the boundary line between a social networking site and just the internet per se is. I mean, here we are on blogger and we have little profiles that we could deck out with pictures and our friends can check in and link to us and things. Also I can google people's names,just like I can search on myspace or friendster or anything. You know, the way I think about it, the world is just one giant social networking site.

Noko Marie said...

Your post brought to mind this thing in the New York Times, by the public editor, about people caught in google hell: