Thursday, January 24, 2013

Our Love Affair With Google

I can safely say that 67 per cent of people have Googled themselves. I can also safely say that 83 per cent of statistics are made up. Tough to believe what we find on the Internet, isn’t it?
Either way, Googling our own names remains an inevitable Internet journey we all travel through at one point or another. And even though it seems to be a fad most of us went through when our Neopets were still our big responsibility, the allure of discovering who you are in the eyes of the collective world hasn’t disappeared. Once we grow a little bit older, when angst is our beloved middle name and voice cracks appear in the most socially convenient of times, our lives become even more centred around the Internet. You know, when we’re finding ourselves. We spend our days looking deep inside our souls and pulling out the unexplored wisdom that accompanies maniacally trolling our newly formed YouTube account.
Googling your own name is almost akin to finding someone else’s diary. It’s you, but from an objective view of the world. You see yourself as simply a name, a profile, and it suddenly clicks how small you are. There is a certain intrigue as to who you will find. Suddenly, you’re no longer John Smith, but John Smith, track team member in Grade 6 and the proud owner of the most thumbed up comment on Rihanna’s “Love the Way You Lie” music video.
Does this imply we are a vain society? All eager to snatch a little pocket of fame, even if that entails a Blogger profile abandoned years ago? No; it’s human curiosity. We want to see ourselves as others do. It’s smart. We want to see ourselves as our potential employers will. It’s hilarious. We want to see how many alleged criminals share our names on the FBI wanted list. It’s natural.
Yet it’s also natural for people other than your procrastinating ego to type your name into the mother of all information known as Google. It’s this very fact we have to be cautious of, and is precisely the reason I just signed up for a Google Alert with my name on it. Every time my name is searched, I will be notified. And that’s either a whole new level of vanity or absurd paranoia, but I suggest you do the same, fellow cyberspace civilians.
Despite the creepers lurking behind the screens around the world (and apparently anyone who has looked through someone else’s photos on Facebook qualifies for the endearing term “creeper”), the Internet is a place of endless discovery, perhaps even nostalgia. A few months ago, I stumbled across my old Neopets account, which reminded/guilt-tripped me about the fact that I had left this virtual little pet without food for 3627 days. No wonder eight-year-old me was so addicted, seeing this creature’s eyes tearing up, begging me to come back and play. This was a game of serious responsibility!
A friend of mine entered his name into Google only to find a website which looked to be dedicated to him, as if he came across a personal shrine created by his oh-so-devout fans commending his piano expertise. It was entitled The Piano Sensation, but not targeted towards my buddy over here. Just another guy who made a website for himself praising his piano skills (if that’s not sad, I don’t know what is).
I, for one, share my name with what seems to be hundreds of middle-aged women in Ohio. A fascinating lurk, I know. Others have such unique names that they are really the only ones who come up – the one and only in a vast world of Internet fame.
It remains a source of intrigue for everyone. Some are left feeling sufficiently creeped out after finding their name inserted into a foreign blog entry, others feel a little ashamed that they only appear once for participating in their school’s annual bake sale, and most feel a little bit smaller than before.
The power of Google has literally overtaken the world. We may think of the internet as being an invincible creature, holding our secrets as its own, laughing with us while we watch the panda sneezing for the thirtieth time, patting our back while we read a surprisingly tear-jerking chain email (grandparents always have a knack for those). But in reality (please stop reading if you’re morbidly afraid of the Internet already) it’s as if Google is glaring at us at all times. Really? It rolls its eyes. You’re checking how to spell “definitely” for the third time today? Do you honestly think the baby with the bellowing laugh is this funny?
I’ve essentially come to view the Internet as a cynical, bitter creature before me, who probably views me as a sporadic, ADD-prone maniac. But hey, at the end of the day, we are their masters. The Internet is our very own tool for success. It doesn’t have a brain.
…at least for now.


1 comment:

  1. I may or may not have just signed up for a google alert. Great post!!