Three 20-something women trying to figure out what it means to be lay, Catholic, and modern all at once.

January 26, 2011

On Being Googled

I've been thinking a lot about my use of technology, and its implications for the type of person I'm becoming, how I use my time, and whether or not the internet in particular is helping me to strengthen or weaken my relationships (certainly "the internet" and "technology" are nouns with many uses and purposes, and those could be parceled out and examined individually).

However, one thing that I do not really like is having an "online presence" or "virtual personality." What I mean by this is that if someone were to search for me in Google, various links would come up, mostly linking me to organizations and institutions that I am or have been affiliated with as well as news sources that have quoted me.

This has really only bothered me once before, when I found out on a third date that before a guy had initially asked me out, he had "Googled" me and saw that I was associated with an organization that he did not really care for (and come to find out, significantly misunderstood its mission). Before asking me out, he said he seriously weighed whether or not to pursue something, even though he thought I was attractive and we had shared several dynamic conversations in person. When he said that, I felt reduced to some sort of online attribute that he would have eventually come to understand about me more in depth and more organically should it have come up in conversation. We only went on a few more dates, partly because our morals did not line up after all, but also partly because I felt prematurely assessed based on my "virtual" encounter with him instead of my real encounters with him in person. It was almost as if he missed experiencing me, and instead "experienced" the virtual me.

This is just now crossing my mind again because I am supposed to be going out on a blind date in the next week or so after being "virtually" introduced by a colleague. I don't mind blind dates any more than dates after having talked to someone in person. But I can't help but wonder if he will "Google" me before meeting me in person, and what effect that will have on his opinion of our date and of me.

I choose not to Google him, and to see what happens. Let's just say, "I'm Feeling Lucky."

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Although an "online presence" feels new, it's really not. Before there was the internet there were school yearbooks, gossip columns in the newspaper, and plenty of little old ladies telling stories about, well, everyone. Before there was Facebook, I remember the actual freshmen facebooks each year, with pictures of every incoming college freshman, their home town and the name of their high school. (Yes, the boys would circle the pictures of the girls they thought were cute.) In one form or another, narratives about ourselves which we do not tell have always existed.

Thomas More was very keen on guarding his reputation well. This was not narcissism; rather, he knew that people would identify him with the Church and with Christ, and for their sake he needed to be above reproach. He was careful to cultivate a reputation which would glorify God, even though he didn't personally care what folks whispered behind his back.

Every now and again I Google my own name. Part of my motive might be narcissism, but I am also motivated by a genuine desire for the truth. I want people to see me for who I am; if my "online presence" is significantly out of step with that, I want to change it, or at least know about it.

Anyone who spends much time on the internet will know that some of the information on it is simply false, and much of it is lopsided, impartial or out of date. Sensible people will check the internet regarding all kinds of things - and then take it with a grain of salt.

As with so many things in dating, there's not a particularly right or wrong way to do things here. Some people are comfortable giving significant meaning to online information; other people are more skeptical. If someone Googles you, and takes his findings seriously, there's a good chance you and he have rather different - potentially incompatible - views of the internet and the individual (irrespective of the particular conclusions he may have drawn from his Google search). You're better off without him.

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