Wednesday, May 5th, 2010
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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.

12 Comments / Post A Comment

BadUncle (#153)

As my first and last names are two of the most common of English-speaking people, googling myself usually yields Toyota dealerships. But maybe a share a name with a deposed Nigerian Chancellor of the Exchequer who will pay me for assisting in a mutually beneficial transaction.

jfruh (#713)

Ha, I was just going to ask about people with painfully common names. A friend of mine is running for state legislature in Maryland and has an extremely name — which also happens to be the name of a university. Her campaign Web site is not on Google's page one for her name, which I seriously worry will have a negative effect on her campaign. (I hearby give her some Google juice: Mary Washington!)

I have sort of an opposite problem: I have a quite rare name combo, but the one other person online who has the same first and last name as me is, broadly speaking, around my age and in the same general line of work, to the extent that we are occasionally mistaken for each other on the Internets.

BadUncle (#153)

I think the answer for both of us is to change our names. I claim dibs on "Machine Gun Shostakovich."

jfruh (#713)

I call "Kermit Q. von Clauswitz."

jaimeleigh (#1,840)

Re your last sentence: PRAISE*.

*If I can say that without sounding like a total dork fest?

Hi Jaime Leigh!

jaimeleigh (#1,840)

Hi stranger!

Hey "strategic communications guru," Richard, perhaps it would be even more stategic (and time-saving) to set-up a Google alert for one's own name. Now that's stategery!

(Hi Richard of next week.)

ehcotton (#358)

Googling myself turns up a bunch of people who are not me, but literally every one of them is in the same profession? How weird is that?

katiechasm (#163)

I just get a bunch of drunk Australian party girls.

Jeff Barea (#4,298)

If I may follow the completely unfamous trajectory of an unknown person that I have had the pleasure to interact with…

First are the spiders that grab any information that can induce eyeballs – be they email or meta info.

Second were the deployment of massive amounts of what could best be described as e-land mines deployed by bodyguards or ninjas to cripple oppo research teams.

I, unfortunately, am the only one who has my name online so such matters necessitated extreme protection measures.

Why are people mean on the Internet?

Meanings are in people not in words.

What would happen if you were forced to face every fear? Every self-identified/enforced flaw that only you can see? What would happen if you figured out a way to truly love yourself, your quirks, your looks, your you'ness?

Maybe the Internet is actually the best school you ever had, if you can survive your worst enemy – you?

Wait, new kitten vid on youtube, go fuck yourselves you fat, lazy, bald, ugly bitches…

Kevin (#2,559)

When I google my name, also anglo and common, The whole first page is taken up by some Canadian writer. A Canadian?? can you even imagine my mortification?

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