Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Go Google Yourself

"I Google myself."

"Have you ever Googled yourself?"

Why do all of these sound vaguely dirty to me?

The term Googling yourself, also known as a "vanity search," has been around since the commercial search engines appeared, but the actual number of people completing the act has increased dramatically in the past five years. For the John Smiths of the world, typing your full name into Google's search box might prove a futile exercise, but for those of us with more unique names it is often strange and scary to see what pieces of our lives are available on the internet.

I recently read a great little article by Frank Bures titled "I Google Myself, Therefore I Am." After laughing at the title for a good minute straight I actually read the article. Bures claims his self-Googling obsession comes from being a freelance writer. It is in the interest of business to see how many references are being made to a freelancer on the internet or whether he is receiving good/bad/any reviews.

Okay, that makes sense ... but what excuse do the rest of us have?

I type in my own name and find references to a Thanksgiving 5k walk that I did with my mother some seven years ago, the website I built for my high school literary magazine (which they're still using I'm proud to say), the DJ rotation schedule from my college radio days, a couple of articles I've written on Helium.com (so not worth it). Then the list trickles into text books co-authored by my father (same last name) and a woman with my same first name. This all happens before we get to the really juicy stuff: death records from 1930s Iowa.

Oh baby!

I'm yet to find any death record with my precise name combination on it. All of them I find are a woman with my first name and someone else with my last. Seeing as I have a fairly unique name, if I came up "dead" in Iowa, or St. Louis, or Detroit, it might unsettle me, even if it was almost a century ago. It's not the "dead" part that would bother me, as much as the fact that someone else had my precise name.

Again, I understand that for all the John Smiths this isn't a passing thought; it's a fact of life.

But for me, I'm a one and only. I still have a hard time adapting to conversations where another person has my first name. This is why I spent the weekend of my friend's wedding attempting to respond to questions aimed at the mother of the bride.

So what can I say but go Google yourself and see what you find. And to Frank Bures, here's one more hit on your next vanity search.

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