Get Excited: "Vanity Googling" Is No Longer A Crime

I'M STARTING WITH THE SEARCH ENGINE IN THE MIRRORHere is the latest Internet prescription to cure your socially networked ills! “Google yourself at least once a week,” says strategic communications guru Richard Levick in a Wall Street Journal piece that has some more philosophizing about the new, high-speed brand of mean. (Sample sentence: “Drive over to Wal-Mart for a gallon of milk and you may end up on PeopleofWalmart.com.”) Given that Google is currently tweaking its results pages to be even more up-to-the-minute with its data, checking out your cyber-breadcrumb trail might not be at least as not-bad of an idea as, I don’t know, not putting stuff on the Internet that you don’t want “out there” in general! Although I have to say that it’s hard to take seriously any “DANGER INTERNET” piece that opens with this anecdote:

Steven Fink recently received an unsolicited email containing nude photos of a woman whose jilted ex-boyfriend wanted to embarrass her. The guy presumably hoped these private photos would go viral online, and now countless strangers are obliging him in his mean-spirited campaign.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I get “unsolicited” e-mails like this multiple times a day from people I don’t know! Because they are… wait for it… come-ons for spam sites. Note that Fink’s correspondent is not identified as a friend. I mean, sure, perhaps someone just happened to get this “crisis-management firm” honcho’s e-mail address and figure that he was the guy to start a smear campaign with. But maybe also Fink is using an example culled from his not-very-well-kept junk-mail folder in order to make a tenuous “people sure are vicious” point that isn’t brought up again at all in the rest of the piece? Honestly, all these “the internet is so mean” stories would be so much better if they were told by the people being cruel — because then at least we could all figure out why people act the way they act, instead of just getting scared that naked pictures of ourselves that we didn’t even take would wind up on the front page of Google News.