Aw, go Google yourself

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mark Twain once wrote, “There are only two forces that carry light to all corners of the globe: the sun in the heavens and the Associated Press down here.”

OK, two thoughts quickly come to mind: First, globes don’t have corners. Secondly, if the AP ran the following story it must be true.

So here it is, in part:

NEW YORK (AP)—More Americans are Googling themselves — and many are checking out their friends, co-workers and romantic interests, too.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project said 47 percent of U.S. adult Internet users have looked for information about themselves through Google or another search engine.

That is more than twice the 22 percent of users who did in 2002, but Pew senior research specialist Mary Madden was surprised the growth wasn’t higher.

“Yes it’s doubled, but it’s still the case that there’s a big chunk of Internet users who have never done this simple act of plugging their name with search engines,” she said. “Certainly awareness has increased, but I don’t know it’s necessarily kept pace with the amount of content we post about ourselves or what others post about us.”

Americans under 50 and those with more education and income were more likely to self-Google — in some cases because their jobs demand a certain online persona.

Meanwhile, Pew found that 53 percent of adult Internet users admit to looking up information about someone else, celebrities excluded.

Although men and women equally searched for online information about themselves, women were slightly more likely to look up information about someone they are dating.

Few Internet users say they Google themselves regularly — about three-quarters of self-searchers say they have done so only once or twice. And most who have done so consider what they find accurate.

My, aren’t we a nosy bunch.

Now, I’m too old to know much about Myspace, your face or anybody’s else’s features, let alone someone else’s tubes, so let’s not go there.

But I’m not that archaic. I understand how information works. If encyclopedias carried current information about our peers, there would have been a whole lot more people spending time in the reference section of the library.

This story raises another question: Whatever happened to rumor and innuendo? Slam books? Or just plain juicy gossip?

We used to rely on information about our ancestors as it was passed down from generation to generation. We had a term for it: We called it “lying.” Well, maybe not lying with malace, but with some slight re-arranging of the facts. Remember the old game, “telephone?” Same thing. One story gets told to another, then to another, and so on until one’s ancestors sound as if they came from royalty in some exotic land.

Bloody, not likely, as my great-great-great-great uncle (on my father’s side) Napaulie would have said from his throne in the castle at Wentworth, on the Pacific coast.

Let’s face it: Horse thieves had to come from some place and be someone’s relative.

And not every family has a written history. Hell, some of my ancestors probably couldn’t write (they’ll be saying about me in future years).

But we do have letters from a pair of brothers who fought in the Civil War. I love their story. They were from Wise County, on the other side of Virginia. One was named Samuel. I don’t remember the other one’s name. Doesn’t matter for the story. They were a cool brotherhood, though. I can picture them with long scraggly hair, long scraggly beards wearing long scraggly clothing. Things were scraggled back then, I guess.

Then, an unexpected turn occurred: The Confederates, who opened the Civil War like gangbusters winning battles, skirmishes and fights, started losing confrontations, and seemed destined to lose the war.

So what did one brother do to solve the problem of being on a losing team? He changed sides. Turned coats. Exchanged gray for blue.

Google that, my friends.

Napaulie would not have been a happy camper.

Paul McFarlane is the Editor of The Tidewater News. His e-mail is