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I Love You, Let's Meet » two lost souls googling in a fishbowl

two lost souls googling in a fishbowl

I’ll let “Stevie” tell his version first of his lunch date with guess-who, brilliantly disguised with the pseudonym “Ginny.”

To be fair, a friend said the same thing he did, that his article wasn’t that bad. After I copied and sent her my e-mail exchange with him, she in fact commanded me to “call him back right now and tell him your sense of humor temporarily deserted you.”

What freaked me out about his men’s mag article, about finding a wife, was the lede about a friend of his who cooked up a scheme to rent an office for a fake Broadway show and advertise for actress/singer/dancers to come audition. The babes, Stevie’s friend reasoned, were bound to sleep with them — the “producers” — to get a part before they caught on to the fraud. In the article, Stevie’s response to the idea was something like, “well, this doesn’t seem totally cool, but OK.” (This represented the rock bottom from which he went on his wife search.)

So after our lunch I wrote him that his friend and the scheme seemed sociopathic, not cute. And that was that — I thought. A year or so later I stumbled across his article on match.com’s magazine, which was strange to read, but maybe a good moccasin-walking exercise as I’ve certainly written about an encounter or 22 of my own.

But then the kicker — some months after that, he wrote me on nerve.com for a date! I wrote back, “Dude, not only have we already gone out, but you wrote about it and called me ‘smarmy, self-righteous, predatory, and sexist!'” He didn’t write back.

I know from constructing my smarmy, etc. columns, articles, chapters that we all can make our stories mean whatever they want, but to use our thoroughly over-documented lunch date to illustrate the evils of googling seems kind of a stretch. Googling ain’t snooping, it’s interest. Especially if the person writes or paints or makes music or something else you can check out on the Web.
I have a guy friend, though, who says his dates have been creeped out when he reveals he’s googled them. I’d love to hear what normal, non-exhibitionist, non-self-promoting-writer daters think about googling/being googled.

Whoa! postscript, I just heard on the radio that Syd Barrett died, which I had no idea when I wrote my headline! Spooky!

9 Comments so far

  1. Daniel Weiss on July 11th, 2006

    What can you expect from a googling? If you are the googler, you will only find something substantial if the googlee is a person of some attainment that is already of public record. Google will put together titles, list galleries, note promotions. A clipping service, no more. Unless the googlee’s name is unusual, you spend much of your time trying to figure out which of his homonyms is the real him. If the googlee is a person trying to lead a quiet life, google will present sixteen identical notices — though with sixteen different headings — of the minutes of the board of the preschool that the googlee’s child attends.

    I don’t mind being googled, if I’m told at the head of the conversation. It can be eerie to hear some new or casual acquaintance use the very same words that pilloried me in a French review four years ago (some phrases just stick in the mind). A thorough googling saves you a lot of small talk. I wish google could do for my family what it does for my so-called career, so I wouldn’t have to talk about them either.

  2. karen on July 11th, 2006

    Whoa. I read this immediately after spending 30 minutes Googling this guy who just wrote me from Craig’s List.

    I knew next to nothing about him – just that he lives not far from me, that he liked my posting of the lyrics to a Joni Mitchell song enough to respond, and that he was man enough to confess he was “feeling about the same way” as our melancholy baby, Ms. Mitchell, in “All I Want.”

    And, of course, I knew his e-mail address. Surprisingly, Googling his e-mail address brought me legions of info about this guy, and I liked every thing I saw. If I hadn’t been able to Google him and find out how much we have in common, interest-wise, at least, I never would have agreed to his requested “picture exchange.”

    So yeah, I wrote him back, avec pic, telling him I Googled him and liked what I read. Now I’m just hoping he doesn’t think that’s too creepy. But hey, at least he’s seen my picture now. Two in fact. In Craig’sListLand, that makes us about even.

    ~Karen

    PostScript: Googling my e-mail address brings no results.

  3. virginia on July 12th, 2006

    The consensus is in:

    Googling: not creepy.

    Googling and pretending you didn’t: A little creepy

    Being offended that someone googled you: It’s the 21st century, you silly ostrich!

  4. girlbomb on July 16th, 2006

    Uch, what a prick. He certainly knows from smarmy, doesn’t he? All that shit about how men like sex columnists made me want to throw up…in HIS mouth. “Nyah nyah, I published more than she did.” Can’t wait until Ginny smacks him over the head with a hardback copy of her book.

  5. kmcleod on July 17th, 2006

    At least now you can use allllll of Barrett’s lyrics with no consequences…

  6. Lovable KnowItAll on July 19th, 2006

    So, purely by coincidence comes this little story on Nerve.com by Douglas Rushkoff, which mentions Googling dates in the year 2033. Yep, it’s still considered somewhat stalker-like and desperate but one can be driven to it by…stalkerly desperation.

  7. JohnG on July 30th, 2006

    As Karen said to me–OK, I’ll bite. What is a moccasin-walking exercise? I couldn’t find it in the NTC American Idioms Dictionary, nor the Dictionary of Cliches. Perhaps its absence in the latter is a good thing, although there’s always some joy in making a dead metaphor spring back to life.

    On the subject of the righteousness of Googling, I would start with the following two assumptions: first, our goal is to find a person with whom we would want to spend significant amounts of our precious time; second, when in a love relationship, the worst, the very worst thing, is to talk with one’s partner about important and potentially volatile aspects of that relationship in any way other than in person, preferably holding hands or other body parts if possible. I think the second axiom can be applied to the first–the most relevant data comes from a date, one of the in-person variety. The sooner you get there, the faster you’ll know whether you and a person who has passed your initial cut stand a ghost of a chance of a second date.

    And I’m reminded of a line from a Grateful Dead song: “I’d rather be in some dark hollow where the sun don’t ever shine, than be alone in some big city, in a small room, with a girl on my mind.” We have to get out there and actually go on dates. As soon as it seems safe and possible. Anything else is a risk-averse avoidance of human contact based on something only slightly more predictively reliable than the reading of entrails.

    Online dating is sort of a misnomer: despite the fact that it can feel quite intimate somehow, it is not a date, although it is a good way to get a date. From a statistical standpoint, it amounts to searching a database for matches in parameter values; these parameters are skewed to yield a high percentage of “false-positives.” When combined with Googling, they yield high percentages of both “false-positives” and “false negatives” because of the unknown reliability of information from the Googling and the human judgment imposed on it, which compounds possible errors.

    Compared to that scenario, in-person dating gives very few false positives or negatives. So while the intial cut that online dating/searching yields seems valuable in finding an in-person date, Googling and attempting to read the tea leaves it generates may actually add to the margin of error already built into the OLD process; it certainly delays getting to the most reliable way of making a judgment about who might still love and need you when you’re sixty-four, the divorce rate notwithstanding.

  8. virginia on July 30th, 2006

    John! Karen! Stop biting! Or I’m going to turn this car around right now!

    “mocassin-walking exercise” refers to walking a mile in someone else’s moccasins/ being in someone else’s shoes.

    And if I may quibble, there are charming scoundrels who specialize in the in-person false negative. But they’ve been around way longer than computers, and the computer doesn’t really change their game….

  9. karen on August 19th, 2006

    As a footnote we have this, from a second e-mail I just got from a new Nerve prospect:

    “and, now that you have my full name, if you google me, I’m NOT the _______ that was shot in the back of the head by a Venezuelan government agent.”

    Hey, he’s funny!