I gave this instruction recently to a group of novice Internet users and their reactions reminded me of the sense of titillation and awe I felt "my first time." Around ten years ago, it occurred to me to find out if I were searchable. When I first googled myself (ironically, to do what is now considered a verb–to google–I used Yahoo!) and saw my name, I felt important and excited. I was available to be known by the whole world.
In his first-of-the-year blog post, business and marketing expert Seth Godin urges his readers to google themselves. His point? Sales prospects, prospective employers, and co-workers are already doing it. He adds, "If you don’t like it, you can fix it."
When I suggested to the novice Internet users that they use Google to search for someone else, I heard outrage. "That’s spying!" "That’s no one’s business!"
I also remembered my unease when I first googled someone. Since I hadn’t asked for permission, I felt as if I were a child peeking in my parents’ dresser drawers when they were away. Yes, we were a family and, yes, the drawers were unlocked. Still, what was in them was theirs, not mine.
Some of the group members were silent. I knew why. They had already googled someone.
A Roanoke Times article posted during mid-2007 quotes Marisa Sano, recruiter for local company Mailtrust, (formally Webmail.us): "I check everything I can. If you have something on the Internet, if you have a blog or a MySpace page, it’s fair game and it’s going to be checked."
Is googling someone no one’s business? Is it peeping in their closets? Is it fair game?
Regardless of one’s philosophical position on these questions, the Internet makes us known to the whole world.
Google creates a search results resume for us that we might or might not have created for ourselves.
The odds are good that a potential venture capitalist, angel investor, vendor, partner, employee, and customer is googling us right now.
Let’s see what they see.