Friday, August 13, 2010


Let's get this out in the open: everybody Googles themselves. I've done it out of curiosity. I've done it out of shameless self-involvement. And, most frequently, I've done it in the spirit of image control. What kind of dirt is out there? What facets of my life are exposed online?

(As it happens, my name is not particularly common. Nor, though, is it exclusively mine. There are several of us running around, which I view as a huge plus: the presence of doppelgangers handily confuses any potential investigators. Although, disturbingly, the more concerts and publicity for concerts I do, the more I gain on the bariatric weight loss nurse who is my prinicpal red herring. There's a site where you can actually see a cloud of results for your name, and "early music" and "bariatric," the two largest items, are neck and neck.)

But here's the thing: Googling for image control, by its very nature, assumes that there are people out there Googling you. The act of monitoring for what comes up presupposes that it's not just you eyeballing your results.

You'd think, then, that I would have been less monumentally gobsmacked when I discovered that, yes, there were actually folks out there plugging my name into their search boxes:

Pleasant old parishoner at husband's new job: Were so glad to have you all here!
Me: We're so glad to be here!
POPHNJ: Are you enjoying Virginia so far?
Me: Everyone seems very friendly. (Note: I have recited the preceding two lines so many times they've become incantations. Also, my smile muscles hurt).
POPHNJ: You're the Anne XXXXXXX who wrote XXXX poems, right? It took me a while to figure out which one you were online.
Me: .... (Hang onto smile as if onto small child dangling off lip of 50-foot precipice.)

Friends, I always thought it was paranoia not to feature my full name on this blog. But it wasn't paranoia. No way. It was straight-up, bona fide wisdom! I have long half-salved my fears with the comforting idea that there was no way anyone on earth was as interested in me as I was. Obviously I had yet to encounter the church.

Is it wrong to be so disturbed by this? For starters, the woman meant well. She was just curious, and I understand curiosity. Heck, I Google everybody else, so why shouldn't people Google me? And then there's this: In this age of electronic records and computer-based work environments, do we forfeit, at birth, the right to electronic anonymity? Are we even capable of such anonymity, especially if we are trying to use the internetz to promote, as I am, one particular facet of our lives?



Susan said...

What is the site where you can get the tag cloud?

I agree--it is a fine line to walk between my own curiousity about other people (and therefore wishing them to post stuff online) and yet not really wanting other people to be able to find out too much about me online. Luckily for me there are many many other people with my name :)

Samantha said...

I had a similar experience when I moved to LA, but it involved a socially awkward older librarian, so it was a least a little bit more normal, perhaps? It's a really bizarre thing when it happens, though. :p