Midweek fluff: Web detective

We’re all a little distracted right now — Kate’s been traveling, SM’s been studying, and I’ve kind of burned myself out on the internet. I’ve got the shittiest excuse of the three, so it falls to me to give you guys something to talk about. But all I can think about is being burned out on the internet. So, let’s talk about that!

I’ve been thinking about this article by Katha Pollitt lately, because I am an ace internets detective, which is both a blessing and a curse (in the way that all knowledge is, especially knowledge obtained under the table). If I were a good personal essayist like Kate and Katha, rather than a vulnerability-avoidance machine powered mainly by shame, I would tell you a titillating little story right now that would lay bare my deepest and most personal flaws and let you laugh gently at my foibles while simultaneously feeling a profound kinship with me as I hold up a mirror to your own humanity. I’m not gonna do that though.  I’m gonna make you do it. Tell us about your biggest web “research” jackpot, or your biggest surprise, or how you knew it was time to erase your search history and never look again.

If you’re one of the three people who’s never used Google for evil, you may prefer this article by Richard Cohen, whom I consider to be a fundamentally ridiculous human being. If Katha makes me feel like I’m far too guarded to ever be a writer, Cohen makes me think that maybe any schmo can do it. SM and I went into paroxysms when we first read this article (we were on a bit of a Cohen-hating kick) — it led to a lot of yelling “I USED THE INTERNET” in a Gumby voice. (We still use “falling down the rabbit hole” ironically to mean wasting time online.) So if you’ve got no internet sleuthing secrets to spill, tell us about an experience falling down the rabbit hole. Maybe the Post will give you a column!

136 thoughts on “Midweek fluff: Web detective

  1. I decided to google my phone number one day, because, you know, stalking yourself is really useful. I found a page that had a post from this creepy site that listed my social security number, address, DOB, email address, password, father’s name, mother’s maiden name, credit card number….along with four other people’s information.

    Thankfully, I had changed my credit card number months before after an identity theft scare, but apparently that didn’t stop these whackos from posting my info. I called each person promptly and told them about their personal details. It was no jackpot, however…more like a shitpot.

  2. Almost hired someone for a teaching position. Was warned to google them. Found out they were under investigation for sexual assault on a high school student. Argh.

    In other news (hijack!!!) I’m going to the book signing/panel discussion on “Feed Me!” in Syracuse tomorrow – any Shapesters (Shapelys? What are we again?) in the area to meet up with there?

  3. I had a friend who left town under not suspicious circumstances, but sad ones, and I lost track of her after that. Three years later, after half heartedly googling her to try and figure out where she was, I said on my livejournal that I really wanted to find her. I put my back into it, and went through all the known screennames I had for her, and eventually found her livejournal and her gmail address. We’ve reconnected, and it is good.

    My google-fu is strong.

  4. I stumbled across my then-boyfriend’s personals ad while google stalking him. I know that I’m not the only one this has ever happened to but damn it was like being punched in the gut.

  5. Let’s see… someone faked their death on Livejournal, upon which I searched the white pages or whatever (I can’t remember the name of the site, but it lists stuff like that) and they turned to be not only alive, but also 5 years older than they said they were. Creepy much D:

    That and my SparkPeople profile still shows up on Google results. *headdesk*

  6. i cyber stalk pretty much everyone i meet but haven’t found anything really juicy yet.

    However, while googling my moderately famous great-great aunt, I found a doctoral candidate at UW was compiling her writings. It was pretty cool. I gave her a couple of letters my grandma (her neice) had in her records.

    I also stalk every new hire at my company. I can’t wait until I actually find something good.

  7. I’ve tried googling myself before, but with a common last name, a not uncommon first name, and no middle name, I don’t get much on me.

  8. Genevieve’s comment reminded me of this:

    I was *really* awkward in junior high, and only one boy ever asked me to dance at a school function. This boy was in my class, and I had once made him a paper robot hat. This was the extent of our relationship. I was so stunned when he asked me, that I think I just blurted out ‘No,’ (or perhaps ‘No-thank-you’) because I didn’t know what else to say. And then I just stood there for minutes afterward, turning awfully pink and hoping I hadn’t hurt his feelings. He didn’t seem too broken up about it; it never came up again.

    Either the next year or the year after that, he didn’t come back to school. It took me a few months to notice, and then I asked about it. Nobody seemed to know where he went, until another kid from that same class – someone I had taken to be his friend and also (sort of) mine – told me that the boy had been in a horrible accident and was brain-damaged and might be dying, and his parents had taken him away to another state, possibly to be institutionalized.

    Perhaps I was gullible – and I vaguely remember, whether falsely or no, a slight, suspicious edge of relish to the telling of this terribly sad story – but it was the kind of story that, as a kid, I didn’t dare disbelieve. It haunted me for years, wondering if the kid died or if he still remembered any of his friends from school – and was he mad that none of his friends wrote to him or called him? What if he was being kept hidden by cruel parents, who were ashamed of him?

    I think I even tried, around that time, to use the internet to find out what really happened, but back then search engines put the fu in futility, so I came up empty. Reading Genevieve’s remark, it occurred to me to try again, just now. (Odd enough name to be getting on with). First Google result, I kid you not, this guy’s homepage, with pictures and a resume. 1) HOT. 2) Perhaps he was in an accident and suffered brain damage, but it didn’t stop him from going to M.I.T.

    On the heels of Genevieve’s remark, it occurr

  9. I did discover when googling myself that I am cited on Wikipedia. And it’s an article that links back to that very Wikipedia page, talking about how it was edited to perpetrate misinformation. That kind of made my head hurt.

  10. That Cohen article’s hilarious! I want to read the follow-up where he operates a toaster. (But where had my slice of bread gone? It was, and remains, a mystery.)

    I worked out who a fellow pseudonymous science blogger was once. I felt a bit guilty for being nosey, though, so I emailed her with my real name when it looked like I might be visiting her town.

  11. MissPrism, I would pay good money to see you write a Richard Cohen parody column. Also, you will really appreciate this one — that’s the article that got me and SM started on our anti-Cohen kick.

  12. Oh, and once, when playing a silly game on Google Images with friends – enter your first name and count the number of pictures before the first porny one – MY PICTURE was the first result!
    It doesn’t work any more, but I was somewhere between smug and alarmed.

  13. I google myself periodically to ensure some of my pseudonymous web activities have not become entangled with my real name.

    I google my parents sometimes to make sure their privacy is intact (I’ve had them removed from searches and Google putting up their phone #, etc. They’re both in their 70s and not very web savvy).

    I have used web searches to track down people who I think are cheating an online comm, running a scam to try and get money (the woman eventually killed herself) or who I think are sockpuppeting.

    The only person I ever web stalked was the guy I was in love with in grad school, who went on to become a tv producer and who I haven’t seen in years. I’m not sure if periodic searches to see what he’s up to amount to stalking though.

    DRST

  14. Oh wow, that second Cohen article. “Algebra has nothing to do with logic- *writing* teaches logic. My evidence for this is that people who can do algebra can’t always write. They can’t even do geography!” LOGIC FAIL!

    (Not to mention his awful condescending tone throughout the whole piece.)

  15. Oh, I always stalk exes for a while. At first it’s because the break up hurt, and then eventually it transitions to routine checks just to see what they are up to (any new publications for work? online dating profile still up and active?).

    It does mean that I get frustrated when some people have barely any internet presence. My most recent ex never gets around to getting online to update Facebook or read his friends’ blogs, so I generally have no information. I have to ASK how he’s doing and what’s up to find things out, ugh.

  16. My most recent ex never gets around to getting online to update Facebook or read his friends’ blogs, so I generally have no information. I have to ASK how he’s doing and what’s up to find things out, ugh.

    And then if they won’t answer you, you have no choice but to get really good at webstalking. Ahem.

  17. The rabbit hole is what I am stuck in now where I should be putting an exam together and instead I’m checking out all of the hyperlinked texts in this article.

    Another example of the rabbit hole? My current obsession with para-tainment like Paranormal State and Ghost Hunters. I’m telling you that gossip is soo much more fun that anything US or Hello could ever give me. I can spend HOURS looking this shit up. Those people are VICIOUS. Let one psychic get more phone calls than another psychic and its time to get out the claws. One haunting hoax or trumped up EVP and you’re history.
    I am also totally guilty of google stalking and piecing together the lives of every man I’ve loved since hmmmm 1995?

  18. Oh and I totally hate facebook and myspace. So I don’t have an account on either. But you bet your bippy that I’m checking everybody in high school and college out to see what they’re up to. Hah. And incidently, several of the myspace wallpapers from ex-boyfriends have convinced me that I totally dodged a bullet. Hell, the music alone is bad not to mention the plethora of skull decor.

  19. OH GOD I FORGOT ABOUT THE ALGEBRA

    I googled my eldest brother once and found out that he is a really important guy in a country I’ve never once thought about. I mean, I know he does international business stuff, but it was really weird to see what kinds of things he was connected to.

  20. Not gonna lie, last week I got it into my head that my ex boyfriend probably has a criminal record by now and I wanted to see it come up when I googled his name, because that would feel good. No such luck. I know he has a DUI, but it probably isn’t on the record or something, and stuff like that doesn’t come up on google anyway.

    I’m a little embarrassed because this guy is ancient history and I usually don’t think of him much, but every once in a while I remember what a mean, messed up person he was and indulge in a little “my life rocks, no thanks to you you sad, sad person.”

  21. Webstalking tips:

    1. You can find old versions of stalkee’s web pages, from back before they thought about privacy, by using http://www.archive.org, the Wayback Machine.

    2. You can turn access to one email account into access to many, many more accounts, simply by applying judicious use of the “email my password” request (first test on a sample account to make sure it sends password in the clear rather than resetting password). It is sensible to do this in the dead of night, when the stalkee is asleep.

    3. If you have access to stalkee’s computer, you can install a keycatching program. I believe there are even those that will send results out over the web.

    4. You can stop doing all of these things. Stalking poisons the soul.

  22. Hm, yeah. Having both webstalked and been real-life stalked, I think some of those cross the line into actual illegal and dangerous activities. Looking up publicly available information on the internet: maybe not terribly emotionally healthy, but fair game. Breaking into someone’s private information: NOT the same.

  23. I never webstalked an ex, mostly because I didn’t have a fast enough internet connection to bother until about 3 exes ago, and since then, I’ve had 1 ex I still heard about through mutual friends, 1 ex I actually remained friends with (after a short breather), and 1 ex whose name was not only pretty common but shared by a pro hockey player, so Googling him was fucking useless.

    I have, a couple of times, Googled old friends and gotten back in touch, only to realize there was a good reason why we weren’t friends anymore.

  24. I did some hilarious googling yesterday for a facebook meme. I don’t usually do these, but the results cracked me up. Here it is re posted:

    Another fun exercise –
    Just Google your name followed by the word ‘needs’ in quotes – e.g. “Joe needs” and see what you get. Then tag ten or so people to have them try it. Here are the top 10 things that Shinobi needs, according to Google:

    1. our prayers
    2. A Touchdown
    3. To Deal With The Fact That She’s From The Future
    4. a Cosleeper
    5. to step up soon
    6. A Vacation
    7. to find a dead man to save her daughter’s life
    8. foodstuffs
    9. a bigger chair
    10. A Friend

    (I clicked through #9 and it led me to a BBW appreciation site I think… At work! YIKES!!!!)

  25. Looking up publicly available information on the internet: maybe not terribly emotionally healthy, but fair game. Breaking into someone’s private information: NOT the same.

    If Nina’s comment is an oblique way of objecting to the use of the word “webstalking” on the grounds that it’s diminishing, that is fair and we can have a conversation about that. But I’m not comfortable with the implication that I was encouraging people to invade others’ privacy.

  26. I have never google stalked an ex, their names are too common, Robinson and Rosenberg, no point. I do occasionally look at their facebook profiles though. (When I broke up with my last boyfriend the most upsetting part was clearly the changing of the facebook relationship status.)

  27. A friend of mine was bored one evening and decided to google my name. She then called me and could talk because she was laughing so hard.

    It turned out that when you google my first and last name you get an ad from a couple who are swingers and are looking for new sexual partners. The ad uses a quite graphic language and the terms used are horrific and hilarious at the same time. Their ad turned up because the wife’s first name is the same as mine and the my last name is the husband’s first name. I had tears of laughter streaming down my face after reading that. :-)

  28. Karin, a friend of mine who is a writer has the same name as a convicted pedophile. He found out in the same way: a friend calling and laughing his ass off while he tried to explain. (Er, not because pedophilia is funny but because my friend had been considering how to build an effective web presence, and now there was no chance in hell for that.) My friend since started using an old family name as his nom de plume, just in case!

  29. I googlestalked someone who was/is in a position of trust regarding me (I don’t feel comfortable saying what that position is, but if you think about it you can probably figure it out) and found out the woman he was engaged to was a former doctoral student in his department at the school from which she eventually got her degree. I brought it up to him eventually, at great pain/shame to myself because this wasn’t something I was supposed to know and only found out because I was neurotic and couldn’t let it go. I was not convinced by his explanation of why it wasn’t ethically questionable. I’m still getting over the trust issues.

  30. The last time I googled my ex was after a mutual friend told me he’d won a technical Oscar a couple years ago. I was curious about what for, and was pretty surprised to find out that at least some of it was research he’d done while we were together – that was well over 15 years ago. It was actually pretty neat to read about, and I know he had to be pleased that his work was recognized.

    I did track down a old friend of mine fairly recently, and we’ve been exchanging emails casually since. But as Kate mentioned above, it’s also reminded me WHY we lost touch lo these many years ago.

  31. Not gonna lie, last week I got it into my head that my ex boyfriend probably has a criminal record by now and I wanted to see it come up when I googled his name, because that would feel good.

    I, umm, may or may not have used my free law school Lexis Nexis access to check on the criminal records of miscreants I went to high school with.

  32. I read the first Cohen article because, hey, if it inspires Gumbiesque hilarity (I’ve got my head stuck in the cupboard!) I need to know about it. By the end I was sitting there thinking to myself ‘open the DOOR and come in.’ It was that fucking ridiculous.

    Then I read the algebra one.

    Now I want to reach through the computer and slap him. Hard.

    I used to think I was a damn lucky woman to have gotten an actual job writing that pays me and everything. I feel a lot less special knowing that someone who thinks basic math skills are not only insignificant, but less indicative of logic skills than the ability to string a sentence together, can do the same.

    I don’t even say this as a math whiz. I barely scraped through Algebra and actually managed to flunk Geometry. My brain isn’t math-oriented and the teachers I got…well, they only knew how to teach the concepts to the kids who would understand the explanations in the books, which mystified me.

    Also, I completely suck at Geography. So much for the whole ‘people who aren’t good at math are more logical and therefore know where deserts are’ thing.

    I am, however, smart enough to know that there are uses for ALL KINDS OF SKILLS, NOT JUST THE ONES I’M GOOD AT!!!!

    Mr. Cohen can bite my not-so-shiny, not-so-metal ass…but let me get a tetanus shot first. I’m not sanguine about the foam around his lips.

  33. I don’t really like using the word “stalking” in this context, to be honest. I think it is diminishing and, if not potentially trigger, maybe brings up unpleasant memories for some folks. I probably lack the time/energy to get into an in-depth discussion about it, so I’m not getting real bent out of shape or anything, but I did want to throw that out there as something to think about.

    That said, either I’m not good at searching for people on the internet, or none of the people I want to find are good at having an internet presence. I found out that my elementary school through high school (yes, that long) crush now has a PhD in some very intense science, like hydrodynamics or nuclear… craziness. Everybody else I found on Facebook.

    BUT! Once I had a temp job reviewing juvie justice records for a study. This gave me access to all the juvie justice records in my home state so I looked up my most recent ex and found he had quite a history, including public drunkenness, public urination, disturbing the peace, and an arrest for “intent to peep and peer.” What were we saying about dodging bullets?

  34. There’s one ex that I am torn about digging up because he was a truly horrible person and while I suspect that his truly horribleness has led to a lifetime of misery and woe, I don’t know if I could handle finding out that he was happily married* and living some sort of normal, contented life.

    *I don’t actually think anybody married to him could be happy.

    Sometimes researching people is a Pandora’s box, you know?

  35. I don’t know if I could handle finding out that he was happily married* and living some sort of normal, contented life.

    *I don’t actually think anybody married to him could be happy.

    IME, knowledge of the latter can make the former much, much easier to deal with.

    “Huh, so he’s married? Well, I bet it stinks.”

  36. Incidentally I have changed the one instance of “webstalking” in the post. I can’t do anything about the title of Katha’s article, of course.

  37. I would just feel bad for his wife!

    Also, FJ, thank you for the word “diminishing,” which is perfect for what I was thinking about the use of “stalking” in this context but with which I was not familiar. xoxo

  38. I would just feel bad for his wife!

    Yeah, I hear that, but on the other hand it can’t last long, can it?

    I feel like the wife in my case isn’t going to be emotionally affected by him in the same way that I was (for various reasons), but I really hope I’m not wrong. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

    I don’t know if “diminishing” is the proper term… I feel like there is a more commonly-used term that is remaining just out of my grasp. But at least it was apt enough that we all knew what we were talking about. :)

  39. I see your point, OTM. I thought I was okay with using the word like that because when I did so, I meant it with all the shame that one who is “stalking” someone should feel. I’ve used the word before to describe that incident I told about, and I did feel that even though he didn’t know about it, it still hurt him. I even apologized to his face for doing it. But that’s by way of explanation, not excuse. I agree with you that diminishing the word “stalking”–which describes a serious crime—through inappropriate usage just to be “funny” is wrong.

  40. Honestly, and this is only my opinion, as a person who has been investigated on the web in ways that are violating and ways that are non-violating (but who, importantly for the grain of salt you should take my opinion with, has not been stalked in physical space), I don’t take offense to “webstalking” because it’s diminishing — I dislike it because it’s imprecise. It’s in our interest to be able to distinguish between seriously violating and potentially dangerous behavior online (e.g. breaking into people’s email) and sorta pathetic but common and nonthreatening behavior (googling your exes for publicly available information).

  41. “I was not convinced by his explanation of why it wasn’t ethically questionable… p.s. by “in his department” I meant he was the chair, not a fellow student.”

    I gotta step in here and comment on this. The chair didn’t do anything ethically wrong unless a) the school had a policy against students and profs dating. A chair is just a prof who agreed to put up with a bunch shit and paperwork. b) The chair was on the doctoral student’s committee and/ or taught every freaking class the student ever took at the university. Grad students are adults. And grad school is basically a poorly paid workplace where in some cases people spend A LOT of time together. It is not uncommon for adult to meet and date in the workplace. To accuse someone of being unethical because they’re in love with someone they work with is over the top and kinda unfair. And given the student is typically a female and the prof is a male when these scenarios are brought up, it also makes women look like victims rather than adults with agency and choice. And I say this as a grad student and uni instructor.

  42. I’ve got the shittiest excuse of the three, so it falls to me to give you guys something to talk about.

    For some reason this makes me think you guys normally sit around playing “scissors, rock, paper” to see who has to write the next column.

    No, I don’t see why my brain goes there, either.

  43. valerie, I think “ethically questionable” and “unethical” aren’t necessarily the same thing. But, hey, this is going to sound kind of weird especially because I’m not going to explain it in detail, but is there a chance we can not have this particular argument on this particular post? There are slightly fragile emotions underlying the post itself and this is relevant to them. Sorry to throw my weight around (ha) but it’s my post and I’m not up for this discussion happening in comments.

  44. Absolutely FJ this is not the time or place
    In my defense there were also very emotional issues underlying my response to Lu not unlike people trivializing the issue of stalking

  45. Googling my actual name is useless until about 3 pages in. The only thing that shows up is an article from when I was in high school.

    I don’t bother with exes because, once I’ve decided not to have a relationship with a person any more, I tend to cut that person out of my life completely.

    I am thwarted in googling grade school and high school crushes because they all had fairly common names.

  46. Let’s see… someone faked their death on Livejournal, upon which I searched the white pages or whatever (I can’t remember the name of the site, but it lists stuff like that) and they turned to be not only alive, but also 5 years older than they said they were. Creepy much D:

    Damanique, I’m, uh, actually a member of two Livejournal communities dedicated to uncovering people who fake their deaths or critical illnesses online (“I have cancer! Send me moneys!”). Turns out that people who do things like that are usually one-trick ponies; they have one illness they fake or modus operandi and they just move from site to site doing it over and over. I’m a psychology student, and somehow I suspect I’ll end up doing a paper on this at some point :P

  47. Crikey. I just searched a particular ex, and he’s… well, basically illiterate, as far as I can see. Somehow that never came up, when we were a couple. I’m fairly shocked by that.

  48. Tell us about your biggest web “research” jackpot, or your biggest surprise, or how you knew it was time to erase your search history and never look again.

    I once googled my own name and found an article written by someone who not only shared my name, but shared my opinions on the topic! Generally I disagree with everyone on some point, but not this time.

    I’d finished the entire article and gone back to the top before it dawned on me that, DUH!, I’d written the article in the first place. I’d done it on request in a day or so and promptly forgotten it. I’m sad that way.

    My birth name is extremely common, but my married name is not, and I’ve always had a thing about not connecting the two – the last time I googled one of them I discovered that my cousin has put me up with both names on one page AND listed all my chllins to boot. *sigh*

    I haven’t googled any ex-boyfriends but I do periodically check into a couple of guys from high school, partially because I was convinced one of them was going to do something unique with his life (rather than end up an engineer or middle manager in a big company as I predicted for most of the guys I hung out with), and I wanted to know if I was right, while the other one was my best male pal in high school (which isn’t saying much – what I most liked about him was he never told me his troubles), plus they have a unique last name.

    I was gratified to discover that my suspicions about best pal’s situation and my predictions about his brother were both correct.

    I periodically google everyone I can think of (if I can figure out how to spell their last names), and did once locate an old pal that way. Still enjoy her but we’re just as bad about long distance correspondence as we ever were and have lost touch again.

  49. As a longtime veteran of online dating, I always try to google potential dates to make sure they are who they say they are. This is how I found out that one potential date was the leader of a support group for priests who left the Catholic church! My mind was buzzing. Why? How? Huh? Give me details! But it’s not like I could come out and ASK… “So, whatcha think about the priesthood, like, in general, huh? Got any, y’know, opinions?” Sadly, we stopped dating before we knew each other well enough for the topic to come up.

    A less weird story: I used online census information and historical maps to not only find out that when he was a child my grandfather had lived in the city where I do now, but also to find that his house is still there! For a military brat with no roots, this was pretty cool.

    Oh, and there was the time I googled the only guy who’d hit on me in a non-online-dating contex in the last fifteen years and found out he was a registered sex offender.

    And when I googled the guy who gave me my first kiss, emailed him, and found out that he thinks it’s the fault of affirmative action that he can’t get a full time teaching job and apparently any woman could. (No, dude, it’s not because you’re male. It’s because you’re an ass.)

    Oh, good grief, I keep thinking of more stories, but I should stop for now and actually, y’know, do some work. :-)

  50. Ok, I jumped on the bandwagon and looked up MY shitty ex-boyfriend from college.

    And there’s only one thing I could find about him on the whole of interwebs. He’s working for his dad, who is a lawyer, as a paralegal.

    As some backstory, this fellow got kicked out of the college where we met. Then, by coincidence, he attended the same college my brother did, so I had a vague idea of his whereabouts in a “good, I can stay away from him” kind of way. I am unsure if he actually finished school at this second place either, but I’d guess he didn’t.

    What I suspect happened was that he dropped out/was kicked out of second school, and then, as there are no licensing or certification requirements for paralegals where he lives, that he just went to work for daddy. I also suspect that he will eventually eke out a bachelors and then find some law school with low standards. Both of these things will likely happen by the substantial monetary greasing of wheels by daddy.

    All this, of course, I deduced from the one result I got from google, which is the inclusion of him as a paralegal on the website of his dad’s firm.

  51. Trivializing! Yes. Also, my objection was mostly a call for being mindful, rather than an announcement of offense. Also cosigning FJ’s comment about “webstalking” as an imprecise term.

    Anyway, ILU Shapelings you are good ppl.

  52. Googling my name at one time would bring up a short story a classmate of mine had written that contained a line like ‘and then we walked down the hall and (my full name) said something stupid, she is such a dork’. Had I known about this at the time it was written (1997) I would have been really hurt, it was such a random mention of me just for a cheap insult.

    But I found it in like 2006 and the storyline was that the writer and Taylor Hanson were secret soulmates who switched bodies on accident. They had to meet and kiss to switch back. So I think time proves that I am not the dork of that story. Sadly I can’t find it anymore.

  53. shiloh, that story is AWESOME.

    All this, of course, I deduced from the one result I got from google, which is the inclusion of him as a paralegal on the website of his dad’s firm.

    rowmyboat, this is why I am so in love with Katha’s article! Especially this part:

    “Late at night, sipping my cold coffee, I saw the Web as a parallel world, the verbal equivalent of the life we live, a shimmering net of information that exactly and completely corresponds to the world. It was like something a medieval rabbi might conjure up out of the Kabbalah: a magical set of propositions that acted as a mirror of reality and perhaps even allowed you to control it and change it. It was as if I would be able actually to watch him in real time — giving a talk, teaching a class, making dinner, making love — if I could only find that final link that would make the parallel proposition-world complete.”

  54. I found an anonymous sperm donor, including his name, job, home and cell phones, address, email address, etc etc etc. I also found out that he’d been “donating” for 11 years and was a total nut job into eugenics. Ick.

  55. I tracked down my first boyfriend on friendster a year after our devastating breakup (I was in counseling for months), only to find out that he had come out of the closet. I couldn’t figure out, at first, why he was seeking “men” for friendship, companionship, & romance. Best closure I’ve ever gotten.

  56. In my very first internship a few years ago, the internet was young and so was I, and I had the weird idea to enter the name of my resident in internal medicine in a search engine, and promptly found some highly embarassing photos of him in the woods, LARPing as a dark knight of some sort. Nowadays you’d barely shrug, but back in the day it was quite a shock. I really didn’t want to know that.

    Then there was the sad and incredibly embarassing incident with the amateur porn site banner ad that said “enter your zip code here to see your neighbours naked!!”, and I thought, why not, and I entered my zip code, and, what do you know, the very first page of results showed some very familiar looking male anatomy! I had accidentally found my own boyfriend’s secret dirty online amateur porn profile! Oh how I wished I had never entered that zip code.

    Didn’t learn from the experience, though. I still webstalk everyone, everywhere, all the time. :-)

  57. BTW, was Richard Cohen the one who wrote a column, like, two years ago about those kids and their fancy coffee drinks with the soy milk and the whip, and isn’t it confusing that they say “grande” instead of medium?

  58. Stacy, your story reminds me of a friend of mine who had only two longer relationships in her life… her current relationship ended when the guy came out of the closet. Some months afterwards, she found the other guy she was with years ago on Facebook, and he had come out of the closet too!
    Poor girl was devastated.

  59. It’s in our interest to be able to distinguish between seriously violating and potentially dangerous behavior online (e.g. breaking into people’s email) and sorta pathetic but common and nonthreatening behavior (googling your exes for publicly available information).

    THIS.

    Fwiw, I think I used the word “webstalking” above, or if I didn’t I was thinking it. I probably meant it as a self-deprecating joke, but having BEEN real-life stalked I know it’s not very funny. Probably one of my ways of coping. Anyway, looking up public information on people (exes, long-lost friends/acquaintances, internet dates) seems mildly sketchy but overall okay to me, and that’s good, because I do plenty of it!

  60. Having been on the receiving end of both real-life stalking and having pretty much every account I have hacked and monitored there for a while, I have to say that the latter needs an evocative name of some sort….maybe not webstalking, but something conveying the serious violation that it nonetheless causes.

    That being said, I think my most significant achievement in the field of Googling is finding out that a friend from college on whom I had a wee crush has either a live-in girlfriend or a female roommate and that he works with said gal, but is almost definitely not married. This without the help of Facebook and whatnot. I also found his work email at a rather top secret-ish government lab but have chosen not to use it, for obvious reasons! (I did indeed undertake the Googling for the specific purpose of internets flirting, for the record.)

  61. Some years ago, a family meltdown, house sale and relocation that had nothing to do with me or mine resulted in my losing contact with my only surviving great-aunt, and while I’d been able to find contacts for some members of her side of the family, none of them deigned to answer. Just this last Autumn, though, flexing my google-fu on the issue yet again, I found a two-year-old article in a local paper about my eldest cousin on that side, and using the info in it I was able to track down an address. Turned out he no longer lived there, but no mind: his mail was still being forwarded.

    Upshot is, I’m now back in touch with my great-aunt. First time we talked on the phone, we both wept.

  62. In one evening, I traced my matrilineal heritage back to when we arrived in this country (US), which was in the mid-1700s.

    In a single google search, found out that the old flame who’d looked me up hadn’t actually been in Spain for the past 3 years as he’d said…actually, was in prison for multiple incidences of sex with minors.

  63. I have been intending to delete my Facebook and MySpace (websites I hate and never use) for a long time but haven’t done so yet… I’m like, what’s the point? You can probably find godawful who-knows-what about me on the ‘net.

    Not to say that I’ve done anything bad or awful, but some of my more amateur work is up in a place or two (writing and drawing), and my personal website needs updating so I sound like less of a self-conscious geekbeast. Which I could totally do if my computer was connected to the damn internet.

    RE: the big reveal (because I don’t really care): I totally posted my first pornographic drawing on the web, to show to some friends, on an art site, and if it had been a GOOD drawing, I wouldn’t care, I’d be all “check out that sweet porno I’s can draw,” but the fact that penises are remarkably difficult to render (I was surprised, they seem so simple at first glance!) and that my grasp of anatomy is minimal at best anyway, and to complicate the difficulty of the piece the two characters I was asked to draw weren’t fully human anyway, well yeah, I’d probably blush to have anybody know I suck that bad. *shrug*

    But then again, I do suck that bad. So I might as well own it.

    :D

  64. Oh yes, SugarLeigh, you should own it.

    My very first boyfriend (now my friend on Facebook, so weird) STILL has (an improved version of) his high school/early college website up, and on it he still (proudly! and I think not-ironically!) has all the horrible poems and bad pop romance songs he wrote for me. The songs are in .midi format, I am not kidding. It’s amazing. Note that he is in his early 30s now.

  65. My namesake plays the flute in an all-female acoustic punk band called See You Next Tuesday.

    On a creepier note, I used google to find out exactly what the scandal was around a distant relative who had to resign as a local politician. I wish I hadn’t.

  66. Ok, just Googled myself for fun…apparently I am damn near ungoogleable, as my married name is all kinds of common and my maiden name is rather unusual but shared by a very prolific movie stuntwoman. Win.

  67. Oh Lord…I just googled myself to discover that though there are a lot of things that aren’t me, I am on every page of the google search. And the linkedin profile that I never use is the first result…I should delete that thing.

    And on the 5th page is a link to the full text of a short story I recently published in a really unknown magazine that I didn’t tell anyone about. Here’s hoping no one I know will be so interested in me that they will google any further than page 3.

    It seems that no one I would be interesting in peeking at online has anything interesting up on the web…pity, I’d like to see an incriminating website or two *lol* My evil ex bff had popped up on facebook awhile back, but she either deleted her profile or made herself invisible in a search because now I can no longer find her.

  68. I have two examples of InternetPower:

    1. I lost touch with a buddy of mine when he went into college, then he resurfaced for a time after he graduated, then he disappeared again and we didn’t hear a peep out of him. One day, I was watching TV and he turned up in a commercial for KFC. So I used knowX to find out his address, sent him a little congratulatory note, and we got back in touch. We Facebook-message each other most of the time now, however.

    2. I had a torch that I carried for about 90 years for another guy I went to high school with, and I would periodically try to track him down via the internet. Never could find anything on him save an ancient report about him getting ticketed for public drunkenness while he was in college. A few weeks ago, I gave it another whirl and found him…via pictures taken at his wedding. That was a bit of a drag.

  69. Well, the guy I was in luuuurve with from 8th grade on got married in November. The good news is, he’s really not at all hot anymore, imo. :P
    Wow, I haven’t had a good googling session in quite a while!

  70. How terrible is it when you google not an ex, but your ex’s current partner? Not that I’ve, um, done that or anything.

  71. How terrible is it when you google not an ex, but your ex’s current partner? Not that I’ve, um, done that or anything.

    *cough* *cough* Me either, and I’m sure it is quite terrible.

    (Seriously, though… I know I started it, but should we be trying to shake off some of the shame surrounding this? It’s curiosity. We can be curious about exes, exes’ current partners, etc. We can put effort into satisfying that curiosity in ways that are not personally invasive. Is that really wrong?)

  72. philosopherkrista, I apologize beforehand–because I’m sure that you used real county and federal records through a reputable genealogy database to do your research–but online genealogy is a peeve issue for me, so I’m going to take the opportunity to vent.

    Online genealogy is useful, but it’s as reliable as the rest of the Internet–it really depends on the resources your using. The worst drawback is lack of documented proof–the next one up is other people’s lack of documentation.

    I spend a lot of my working life untangling the family lines of people who found all their stuff on the Internet and didn’t know how to confirm anything through actual documented sources (or even that they should).

    So, I am almost pathologically compelled to warn everyone I can that the Internet is better used for clues than confirmation when it comes to genealogy.

    Again, I’m sure philosopherkrista knows all this already. But this soapbox doesn’t come around too often, so I grab it when I can!

  73. Never actually spent much time looking up old people (mostly because I was a pretty web-savvy kid all the way back to middle school, and being part of the gifted program, so were all my classmates, and onwards, so I never really lost touch with anyone who mattered. Plus, my dating history is close to non-existent and I’ve never had any bad break-ups, so…yeah).

    I have wasted hours on livejournal and other journal sites going into their search directories and typing in things like

    Location: California
    Age: 19-28
    Interests: feminism

    And then browsing through the profiles and usernames trying to figure which, if any, are male and straight/bi. Which is usually pretty close to none of them (when you can ever figure it out, anyway. Some people are REMARKABLY good at never using pronouns in reference to themselves and having nongendered screennames and icons – I always want to friend these people just because I find that so impressive). I often do this with the vague, only slightly creepy thought running underneath that maybe “I could friend them and then we could become friends, and then, maybe, if we both like each other…”

    And then I realise how pathetic that is.

    Except that I’m terrible at hanging out in person with someone I’ve just met and so I always think “It would be easier to date if we could just read each other’s journals for a while beforehand” and that logic always leads to scouring livejournal for Potentials.

    So yeah. There’s my dark, pathetic, internet confession.

    I don’t regret though, because I’ve actually come across a lot of really cool livejournal friends that way. No boyfriends. But lots of cool people.

  74. @FJ: There are slightly fragile emotions underlying the post itself and this is relevant to them. As there were to the story I related. Actually, very fragile. I don’t want to start any discussion on this; I just wanted to point out that it’s not like I brought charges against the guy. It was about my feelings, which, last time I checked, weren’t up for a referendum. I apologize in advance if further comment on this subject is inappropriate, but I thought about it all afternoon and felt I had to say something.

  75. Last time I checked an ex’s LiveJournal, I found he had written a public entry about being sexually assaulted as a child (which he had never told me) and finding being restrained triggering (which he also never told me, and which we did in what I thought was a fun, consensual, sexual way). I felt *horrible*, mostly for him, because, duh, what a terrible situation, but also felt like a shmuck for tying him up. Ugh.

    On a more fun note, I clearly share a name with a b-list horror movie producer, so that’s generally what comes up when I google myself. Also, this week, I found out that the coolfunnycute senior-when-I-was-a-freshman boy got married last year, and is less cute now that he cut off his hair.

  76. Ok, I finally found something about me. On page 7 of the google results. Head shot for a sports team roster from college.

  77. So nothing really comes up with “my name” but if you google “my name” portland you get pretty horrible essay I wrote in senior english that the teacher used as part of a learning guide. In other news it’s also a body positive essay, which made me laugh since this site made me do the search that reminded me of the essay… full circle baby.

  78. @O.C.: So happy to have been in on one of those stories!!

    I always know that I’m over someone when I will start to let myself look at their online info, before that I’m too “Would I like them to look me up? What am I trying to find out? Won’t it just hurt more if they have gotten a hot new girlfriend, excellent job, gone on a cool vacation but all without me?” I’m all about insulating myself from the pain of emotions. :)

    The worst guy I ever dated, who was probably a 9 on the fucked up motherfucker scale, found me on myspace and sent me a random note which served no purpose except to let me know that he could find me. Bleh, that’s unnecessary, for sure.

  79. @ Lu:
    Not even sure why you spent another minute thinking about it considering you were clearly vindicated and I was politely told to STFU.

  80. bellacoker, my ex did that too! I had gotten a new livejournal after I left him, and some time later he left a comment on it basically just to let me know he’d found me. I went mostly friends-only after that, no surprise.

    Now, mind you, he also changed livejournal names (many years after that) and I kept track of him… but that’s because I want to stay out of his way, not let him know I’m watching. The one time I accidentally ended up in his orbit he tried to follow me home, so I like to know if he’s going to be somewhere I am.

  81. I just used google to try and find a missing holiday. Namely Mardi Gras. I’m sure it’s today, but I’ve seen no evidence anywhere. And sure enough, the Google frontpage was NOT theme-decorated. What is going on, y’all? It’s FAT TUESDAY! I smell a conspiracy from the obesity police.

  82. killedbyllamas said:
    Having been on the receiving end of both real-life stalking and having pretty much every account I have hacked and monitored there for a while, I have to say that the latter needs an evocative name of some sort….maybe not webstalking, but something conveying the serious violation that it nonetheless causes.

    Web-assault? Web-invasion? Webstalking really is too commonly used by those who’re embarrassed by their really-not-harmful habits, but nothing I can think of carries the right ambiance for how abusive the sort of thing you dealt with can be. Web-abuse doesn’t work because it’s used for people who waste time on the web. Ack!

    Most of the stuff you find under my birth name isn’t me – well, I’ve never gone seven pages in, but however far I’ve gone I hadn’t shown up – but what’s really strange is that nearly all you find under my married name is me, however for some reason there are four correct addresses for me and then right in the middle of those is one in Oklahoma, which is one of the 12 states I’ve never been to (and the only that isn’t in the north east or north west), let alone lived in. Which I’ve never figured out, because the other person who shares my first and last name (but not middle initial) has apparently lived only in Georgia.

  83. And then on page 17, I’m on my employer’s website. On 21, it’s sports results from 2001.

    So, google knows where I went to college, one job I’ve had, what sport I participated in (and that I was pretty good at it), and (with a little extra searching) possibly the name of the high school I went to, though there’s more than one high school by that name in the country.

    Ooo, also that I did a 5k run once. And, through that, how old I am.

    Ok, wait, here’s a bizarre one. We’re on page 38 now. So, by taking the end of the URL off, and going to the home page of it, it seems to be the former website of this guy I went to high school with. And, you can’t really get back to what I found from the home page, as the guy has changed it around, getting rid of most of it, but is seems that he forgot a bit. Anyway, the page I found is called “Mega-Hot Piece of *** Award Winners – Valentine’s Day.” And then it lists like 40 girls I went to high school with, and my name is in there. Now, there is not hotness order that I can distinguish, and there are maybe one or two people who, I would venture to say, the page creator considered not actually hot. I think it was just his way of being nice to all the girls he knew in high school on Valentine’s Day? I wonder if this guy realizes it’s still on the internet.

    Page 41, I play the trombone.

  84. A Sarah said:
    What is going on, y’all? It’s FAT TUESDAY! I smell a conspiracy from the obesity police.

    Doggone it! I was going to see if Dainty Maid had any pączki today! Oh, well.

    Hands A Sara a pączek from Meijer.

  85. :) Thanks shiloh!! Tonight we made jambalaya and an invention of my own, gooey butter king cake. (Sort of a hybrid of traditional king cake and gooey butter cake, a St. Louis delicacy that reminds me of home. *sniff*) I’m handing you a slice now.

  86. Shiloh, the best I can think of is web-breaking & entering, but that just doesn’t sound good. And web-megadouchebaggery includes too much.

    Bellacoker and fillyjonk, I didn’t have a Facebook until recently because the perpetrator of the aforementioned real life stalking attempted to add me as a friend very shortly after I started one a few years ago. Needless to say I freaked out and deleted it. I still have no idea whether that (his attempting to add me, I mean) was pure evil or just really stupid.

  87. Since I was really creeped out when my now-ex would frequently mention random tidbits about me, my hometown, etc. and confessed to googling the shit out of me, I tend to shy away from doing it to anyone else.

    Me: Dude, seriously, if you want to know something, have a fucking conversation with me.

  88. The one ex I remained obsessed with for years writes for a newspaper and blogs extensively about his life. He’s the asshole who got away. He was such a player back then, but now he looks so normal. Sigh. And I think he married one of the 5% — back before he was married, I remember him telling me how this friend of his lost weight, and although he was attracted to me as I was, if I was so unhappy I should just go and lose weight too, if I really wanted to, I could. So he married her.
    Not bitter at all.

  89. Don’t be silly, FJ. If you want Richard Cohen’s job, you need to have what he has. Which is, obvs, pictures of powerful editors naked with sheep.

    Is it really “stalking” to look up publicly and voluntarily available information, though? I’d think it could really only be called “stalking” if you’re hacking into stuff you haven’t been openly granted access to, i.e. private business.

    I’ve had too many name and city changes for anyone to get very far using the Net to pry into my private business. The one person I know who could actually pull it off is my ex-husband, and he already knows everything there is to know about me. I suppose that’s one advantage of the peripatetic existence I’ve led.

  90. On webstalking and the like – we use the term “googlestalking”, but also in reference to things like the earrings you’ve been imagining and must be out there somewhere or the obscure answer to an obscure question that’s buried six levels deep somewhere and therefore isn’t easily searchable. (For some reason, a good example of this is failing me, although the last time I was googlestalking information I ended up spending 2 hours on the Vatican website, so I’m sure it was iconography of some sort.)

    Anyway, for me the connotation shares the same root as the more triggery type of stalking, but by meaning it’s referencing the sort of long hunting that animals naturally do, with lots of hits and misses.

  91. I looked up my name. Found pretty much nada except stupid MySpace, barf.

    Looked up usernames I use places… my first hit for SugarLeigh was my guest post on the Long and Winding Road!

    There was also a connection to my old and drama-filled LJ I didn’t realize on my personal website, gonna have to get rid of that post-haste, if I can update the darn site. Part of me wants to erase that old LJ, just to get rid of the bad memories, but I know I never will because it’s connected to people I really care about that aren’t here anymore. Plus, sometimes it’s valuable to read a little bit of it and see how far I’ve come as a person from when I was so messed up! Without the aid of doing that, in fact, I might never have realized how much of being so messed up had to do with being put on pills that have psych side effects people don’t warn you about, to get rid of “problems” that could have been solved simply by being treated as if I was normal and fine and okay the way I was as opposed to as if I had fundamental flaws I couldn’t seem to correct without aid. So while it might be annoying to have someone somehow know about my “silly screwed up lil’ girl” past, on the other hand, MEH.

    If anyone wanted “dirt” on me all they’d have to do is ask. I’d gladly give them more ammo than they could fill a bucket with. If they’re going to find it anyway they might as well get my version of events. “Yeah, I did or said X. Y years ago. Make something of it I guess, if that’s what you really wanna do with your life.”

    But, this was a fun experiment. The stuff I learn thanks to SP!

    :D

  92. Also, Volcanista, that’s AWESOME.

    And Time-Machine, don’t feel embarrassed about that… for those of us interested in finding a mate someday, or even just somebody fun to date that we feel safe and happy around, it’s gotta be about one of the top five hardest freaking things to do in the whole world. Suitable suitors are NOT exactly just lying around in the street. When I feel really cynical about it I doubt the existence of someone truly compatible with me at all (I know that’s not true but the task of finding such a someone seems so DAUNTING sometimes!). Heck, I read that and was like, “wow, what a good idea, I’m always complaining I have a difficult time meeting people my age to pal with around here…”

  93. In a completely incomprehensible twist of internet fate, I was once at the top of page 2 if you image-googled “boobies.” And yes, it was a picture of my cleavage.

    Umm. I blame . . . Warren Ellis? I think that I linked that picture on his LJ once.

  94. I occasionally google my father and his relatives. I don’t really want contact with him (he disappeared from my life when I was about 15 and now emails me about once every three years), but I check to see what he and my uncles and my grandfather are doing. Unfortunately, I came across my father’s professional profile (he’s apparently now a real estate agent in Manhattan) where he flat out lied about his relationship with me and my brother. As in “seeing his kids graduate was his two proudest days” (paraphrased). I didn’t go to my own graduation, and my brother’s still an undergrad. And neither of use would invite him anyway. *headdeask* I HAD been considering at least letting him know that I was married and an ex-pat, but that kind of killed that impulse. Two years later, I still have the impulse to email him and yell at him over that.

  95. I have a semi-uncommon first name and a very common last name.

    Up until a few months ago, I could Google my first name and get maybe 5 pages of results. Now, it’s more like 500,000 results. (I share a first name with a reality-show contestant on VH1)

    If I Google my full name, I get my Facebook(which I’ve since had removed from internet searches), assorted class reunion sites, and my mom’s obituary.

  96. spoonfork38 — I constantly get e-mails from people researching their families. Argh. I don’t mind answering people’s questions about whether we’re from the same part of the country they are, but I really, really, really hate it when they use that e-mail function that tells them whether I’ve opened the e-mail or not. That just seems so invasive to me. I never reply to those ones. Still, asking another real, live person whether they’re a good lead is probably better than relying on google searches for your info.

    It’s funny: I’m just not that curious about this stuff. I love vanity googling to see if people are talking about me, but most of the people I know are either part of some group of real life friends (so I hear better gossip offline) or are internet friends with TMI-filled livejournals or both. I’m definitely very creeped out when people tell me what they’ve found by googling me. I already know it’s all out there, I don’t care if people know, but for god’s sake why are you bringing it up?

    I guess it partly feels invasive (even when it’s just public information) because I make so very much available. The person who’s snooping in my business is often someone who makes next to nothing available and is proud of themselves for this. I always get this feeling like they think they’ve gotten some sort of power over me via via their google prowess. It’s especially annoying since most of the public information about me was written by yours truly and was originally intended for public-ish consumption. It’s pretty embarrassing to find ancient usenet posts from when I was 14 and wanted to be a sexologist, but at least I know 14 year-old me thought she was Educating the Internet and wanted those to be found. They’re not my dirty little secret, just very old and rather silly.

    Sometimes though, I’m glad I have nosy friends. It had honestly never occurred to me to google my creepy uncle until one of them did because I was going on and on about him. I already knew he was racist, and I’d read his godawful piece about Lincoln, but I never imagined he’d be the subject of an intelligence reports from the Southern Poverty Law Center!

    Ok, ok, I won’t be a tease. Here it is: http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=674

    What a guy to be related to, huh! I wish I could tell the people in the article that he’s a pathetic loser whose family thinks he’s a freak. Maybe they’d have fewer nightmares.

    I wonder if he likes vanity googling…

  97. I was feeling all proud of myself for my fabulous new place I live, place of work, etc. etc. So I decided to look up someone who had really hurt me in the past just to do some virtual “HA-ha!” about how fabulous my life now was compared to his. (I wasn’t going to contact him, just wanted to see what he was up to.) Turns out he lived somewhere even more ultra-fabulous overseas, was being quoted in some kind of fabulous artistic blog, and still looked great.

    That ended my interest in internet stalking! : D

  98. Glad to know I’m not the only one who has googled not just an ex (who had a disgustingly common name), but said ex’s girlfried (who has an extremely uncommon name). That was thoughtful of him, don’t you think?

    However, my instances of doing this were directly proportional to the amount of angst over the split. The angrier I got about something he had said, the more I searched, hoping for some sort of heart-broken missive revealing how terribly he felt for saying such horrid things.

    Now – fuck it. Unless I read a story like this. :-)

  99. As usual, getting to this thread way late, but I was googling a bunch of high school and college friends last year and discovered that one of them, who became a high school music teacher, had been charged with some sort charge related to inappropriate activities with minors. It was a big scandal in [hometown]. I, uh, don’t have too much of a desire to google old friends now.

  100. OK, before I even read the links can I just thank you for the phrase “a vulnerability-avoidance machine powered mainly by shame”. I shall shamelessly appropriate it and use it in therapy.

  101. I Googled a high school friend a while back and found him quoted in a local newspaper fluff piece about manscaping. He was waxing rhapsodic (hur hur, see what I did there?) about getting his eyebrows groomed. Not that it was much of a surprise; I knew he regularly had his beautician mother groom his brows in various ways, and he was a whole-body shaver back then, too. But I did giggle a bit about it. :D

  102. I once Googled an ex, a near-pathological liar who could fool most people, about a year after we split up, badly. He’d tried to turn his photography hobby into a career, but it turns out he tried to take a shortcut: stealing other people’s photos and claiming them as his own, which ended up a major fail. There was a firestorm online for a few months, people questioning how he specifically, or someone in general, could do this. I just laughed. Karma. Not nice of me, I do feel a twinge of guilt, but he (finally) got what was coming to him.

  103. Um, this one I wasn’t even trying to find, but then after I found it, was sent into a frenzy of web stalking.

    Yesterday morning I was browsing the sf chron site, as I usually do in the mornings, and clicked on one of those macabre crime stories. And it was horrible horrible – this guy was arrested in the brutal bludgeoning and stabbing of his parents.

    And then I was like, “Wait, this family sounds a bit familiar.”

    And then I was like, OH MY GOD, THAT WAS THE GUY WHO I WENT ON MY FIRST DATE WITH! AND HE TURNED INTO A PSYCHO-KILLER!

    This freaked me out, of course, but then made me feel at peace in some strange way, because that date scared me so much that I didn’t date again for years. And I could never really make people understand how creepy it was – I lacked the language at 16 years old, and then eventually just stopped trying to express it’s deep deep creepiness, and would, in adulthood, just trot it out for laughs when my friends and I would have “worst date ever” story marathons over drinks.

    But guys, I dated a psycho-killer

  104. The angrier I got about something he had said, the more I searched, hoping for some sort of heart-broken missive revealing how terribly he felt for saying such horrid things.

    Oh man, I hear that. Seriously, if I could just believe that my ex (the one I google) will regret on his deathbed what he did to me, that would be enough. Then I would stop looking for evidence that he’s unhappy.

    I shall shamelessly appropriate it and use it in therapy.

    That’s what I originally developed it for. I’m not even IN therapy, and I still make up quips I could say to a therapist so they will laugh and I won’t actually have to talk about issues. This is how we know that therapy may not work for me. :)

    Jessica, my mind is boggled… talk about literally dodging a bullet. Holy shit.

  105. Fillyjonk, definitely been there, done that! Turns out therapy is really not all that helpful when you’re basically doing standup routines about your issues. I think the therapist had fun, though.

    Also, Jessica, you do indeed totally win. (I’m claiming one of several honorable mentions because my aforementioned stalker/facebook-adder is politically interesting in a way that I’m slightly scared to discuss on the internets.)

  106. There are a lot of results for my full name, and none of them are me — although I do, apparently, share it with a British lingerie model, a fourth-place winner of small Russian poker tournaments, and a hell of a lot of dead people. (Actually, a majority of the hits seem to be either British, Australian, or nineteenth-century. Apparently my first name’s massive popularity surge in America is still a little too recent for all those kids to be hitting the intertubes yet.)

  107. It feels good to be a winner!

    (and p.s., could you please not approve that previous comment that I erroneously and oh-so-irresponsibly made with my last name included in my username? I would like to retain some anonymity regarding my relationship with a psycho-killer, however brief and distant.)

  108. I have Googled me and can only find (with a wee bit of difficulty) my Facebook existence although all that gives you is name and network. However, there is a pretty early use of my name as a pseudonym to protect someone’s identity. I have a name which is pretty common but not in English-speaking countries. It’s quite depressing to see the much less pleasant lives of namesakes living as refugees or mourning dead children.

    I suspect that not much creativity would be required to get to my Eljay, though, and that would be a shame-o-rama. Maybe my recent friends-locking instinct is sound…

  109. Last spam: googlism.com is less informative but more fun so I have been hiding there as relief from the Weirdness this post has brought up in my brain. Thus I have found that:

    mim is not available
    mim is easy to use
    mim is valid

    I feel better already. Although I am ignoring the bits where I am an industrial moulding method and also that “mim is suited only for small parts”. Hmmmmm.

  110. I have been broken up from my traumatizing ex for 4 years now, and I only recently stopped looking at his current girlfriend’s lj. I’m still tempted but I just don’t do it anymore, mostly because it made me feel terrible, since I was basically wishing to hear evidence that this girl’s life sucked, and since she actually never did anything to me– he did– I felt bad thinking that way about a stranger. But also, he wants to be in contact with me (to alleviate guilt, I think), and I told him never to talk to me, so I do have the fallback that I could just ask anything I want any time.

    On a totally different note, a good friend of mine’s name is made up of two characters from Lost’s first names. (Parse that sentence!) So googling her just comes up with lists like: “Kate, Sawyer, Rose, Jack, Hurley and Sun went to the Others’ camp.”

  111. My only experience with the “I’m sick, send me money” punter was in the days before Google. Before www in fact. A person in a newsgroup who told everyone she had repeated brain tumours. It went on for years, and eventually I became suspicious enough of inconsistencies and real life meeting avoidance that I decided she was a fraud and left it at that.

    Others eventually did the online and offline legwork and proved it. I believe there was a great kerfuffle and apologies and some forgiveness and some not. I had disappeared from the group by then.

    On the other hand, I found a good friend from those days by Googling his old handle and his names and state of residence. That was cool.

  112. Jessica, this may be macabre of me to say, but… I’m kind of oddly relieved to come across someone who’s had that experience too. (Obviously I’m not glad for you or anything like that!) About a year and a half ago I got a phone call that my first serious boyfriend had murdered his wife (also a former friend of mine) in a particularly gruesome fashion. He then killed their young child (in a more “compassionate” way, if that’s possible) before killing himself.

    Since he and I had lost touch I kind of felt like I somehow wasn’t entitled to be as shaken up about it as I was, which makes no sense. And I also couldn’t quite put words to the ways in which I was shaken up. Even the anniversary of their deaths was hard.

    I’m not sure what I’m trying to say, and once again I *really* don’t mean to express any joy at your being a member of this club!

  113. car – if you happen to see this (and because I’m up with the baby and haven’t read all of the following comments, which is a first for me), there are a few of us in the Syracuse area. I was planning to go but forgot that my husband is working tonight. I am so bummed. If the baby weren’t nursing still, I’d consider leaving him with another family member, but he’s not sleep well, so I feel that mom or dad needs to be with him at bedtime. Enjoy the reading!

  114. Okay, I have to now rush and qualify what I wrote before, because I’m pestered by the worry that the “oddly relieved” phrase in my previous comment will sound like, “Oh, how lovely that your ex was a murderer! SO WAS MINE! We have so much in common. Let’s be BFFs!”

    I think it’s just that I’ve had such a hard time sorting out how I felt about all that… I mean, you know, he’d been such an important part of my life; and yet he was not a part of my life any longer; yet the role he’d played (which wasn’t all bad, though in hindsight I wouldn’t say it was a healthy relationship) continues to shape who I am now; and yet how could I be taking up precious time with grief when there were people close to the family who were understandably vastly more devastated?; and was there something I could have done to prevent this? etc.

    Anyway, I guess when I read your comment I felt a little less alone with all those swirling and confusing thoughts, is all. Which is not any kind of “bright side,” and I’m sorry if I made it sound like it was.

  115. Among some duds I have fortunately had one or two therapists who are quite good at very tactfully pointing out that I am Not Remotely Dealing With Things and am a Living Tangent and Overly Flippant. That said, I have been officially depressed for twelve and a bit years now and it was only with the guy I saw for this last year (I finished a couple of weeks ago) that I’ve managed to get anywhere at all. And even that was only basic CBT things that have made me more able to: leave the house, make relatively simple phone calls, talk to my friends without always assuming they’re hating every second of it, and make the occasional comment on friendly blogs. And once that was finished, and I was triggered by a smear test reminder last week, I did a large amount of insane sobbing and one very helpful way-TMI MSN conversation and finally feel that maybe there might be some point in doing something more in-depth so that even if I am unlovable and unemployable for the rest of my life at least I’m not consumed with shame for minding.

    One other thing therapy has done, incidentally, is make me overshare.

  116. A Sarah, I didn’t find anything you wrote offensive.

    After I read the news article, I had lunch with an old friend – a guy I dated in college, who was as far away from a psycho-killer as one can dispositionally get. And so of course I was like, “You’ll never guess what I found out this morning!”

    But the surprise was that actually, he did guess. I got like five sentences into the story, and he got this strange and knowing look on his face, and it turns out that HIS WIFE went on a date with this same psycho-killer-to-be in high school too! And her best friend had actually been psycho-killer-to-be’s girlfriend for a while. So my friend’s wife had found out about the case some months earlier, and been following it.

    She and I had never known this point of connection because we went to different high schools, and then when we met as adults, we weren’t about to sit down and compare our list of ex’s to find any other potential overlaps, you know?

    So of course I e-mailed her right away and was like, “You dated him too? Did he say this? Did he do that? Can you believe all this?”

    This is all a very long way to say that I, too, was extraordinarily relieved to have a point of connection with someone about this.

    And of course, there are people whose lives are much more shaken up than mine – of course! My shake-up is barely noticeable in the grand spectrum of shake-ups over this guy.

    Nevertheless, yeah, I get you about the sense of relief.

  117. Ah! Web-stalking and why I should not do it:

    Last year I had a lab for my course, and one of our demonstrators was hot as, and vibing all sorts of gay. (I started getting up half an hour early so I could put on eyeliner for a 9am lab, is how hot. I don’t usually get up by 9am for a 9am lab. But anyway.)

    I fail at romantic situations so I spent the whole lab being too scared to do anything but talk to her intermittently about science and drop things when she looked at me. She didn’t have a name tag so at the end of the session a) I had no way of getting in contact with her and b) I was unlikely to see her again (because the demonstrators rotate). But! I had found out her area of PhD research! Excellent.

    So I went home and googled her on our uni web site, and found her full name, which let’s say was Sarah Smith. There was a picture of her and everything! I was very happy.

    Then I got into my lab again the next day and SHE WAS THERE (that’s not supposed to happen!). I got all flustered and my lab partner asked me where to put something and I said “Over there next to Sarah”, forgetting there was NO EARTHLY REASON why I or ANYONE ELSE IN THE LAB would know her name. She was clearly within hearing distance and turned round to look at me like, “What the fuck?” I avoided her for rest of the day in shame.

    She did not come back. Thank goodness. I am not allowed to use the internet — I cannot be trusted with that information.

  118. Aaaand somehow I missed the chat about the trivialising effect of “web-stalking” before I posted. Sorry for the insensitivity.

  119. Ohhhh, Mim, excuse me if this isn’t where you are, but I totally found it hard the first few weeks after ending therapy (that is, with the one therapist I connected well with and saw more than a few times). And I also totally know what you mean about talking to friends and suspecting they hate every minute of it.

    (Incidentally, for me that always then spirals into a conversation that goes roughly, “HEY, YOU’D BETTER NOT LET ON THAT YOU FEEL THIS WAY, SELF, BECAUSE PEOPLE REALLY DON’T LIKE AN INSECURE LOSER! (Like yourself.) WAIT, WHAT? NO, THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO STOP THINKING, YOU LOSER, WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!? D’oh! Ahhh, crap, let’s just stay away from other humans, shall we?” etc.)

    Anyway, yeah, I just wanted to say congratulations on your graduation from counseling, from a fellow alumna who is also prone to oversharing.

  120. I actually went back to my psychiatrist and asked for More Therapy Please yesterday. Which I feel is progress because last time I was considered for psychotherapy on any in-depth level I was way too broken to handle it. So the post-therapy ARGH is sort of good as well as being really really rubbish.

    That conversation-in-head sounds highly familiar, yes. I spend all my time feeling stupid and it’s just about possible that using 97% of my mental energy on complex layers of metagloom is not helpful. Funny, that.

    My best diversionary tactic therapywise is to talk at great length about my Safe Neuroses, because analysing things that are valid subjects for therapy is quite a cunning way of disguising the fact that I am simply skirting over the Abyss Of Screaming Raw Neurons. Although I’m pretty sure that my therapist spotted that a whole year of therapy with a complete lack of Relationship Stuff was not very subtle at all of me.

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