IF you want to know what I was doing on March 26, 2008, at exactly 9:07 p.m., then you’ll probably want to know what I was doing that same day at 6:47 p.m.
After googling “best tom yung goong Thai soup in Pasadena,” I was on my way to a good night.
That is, until 9:07 p.m., when I found myself back at the computer googling “symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome,” and then “best-flavored antacids.” (I hate the taste of Tums.)
You see, I somehow enabled a function on Google that tells me everything – and I mean 11,498 entries of everything – I have looked up in the past three years, including dates and times.
It’s like flipping through an old day-planner, only instead of “dentist appointment, 2 p.m.,” you find things like “hilarious YouTube video of child on laughing gas after the dentist” instead.
There are even charts Google makes, mapping out things you searched for most, times of day you searched most, months you searched most. (I google myself the most in April and on Mondays around 1 p.m.)
This was one of the most terrifying discoveries of my adult life. It is a disturbing thing to see everything you’ve googled – like the things you do when you think no one is looking laid out before your eyes. The more I started looking, like a 21st century Narcissus, into this magical portal of my brain, the more a famous quote began to resonate alongside every inane search entry I read.
Was it not Einstein, or Frank Zappa who once said, “Information is not knowledge.”
And to that, I would amend, “and knowledge about information can be scary.”
You would think I’d have learned a lot after three years of googling things.
But on closer look, these “things” – “Baja Fresh nutritional facts,” or “interesting animals found in Central Park,” or “Arnold Schwarzenegger impressions,” I realized my Google cloud is like the menu at Jerry’s Famous Deli: It can start at matzo ball soup and end up at fettuccine stroganoff tri-tip like it’s nothing.
I’m not sure the so-called Church of Search has enlightened much more than an embarrassing train of thought and about 20 different recipes for homemade macaroni and cheese.
After a recent study came out that kids ages 8-18 spend almost eight hours a day using some form of media, I wondered what I would have been googling if I had Google as a kid.
Back in my day, as teenagers, we were awkwardly handed books and pamphlets about puberty with titles like “What’s
Happening to My Body?” that included embarrassing illustrations that Google Health has hopefully hereby rectified. I have distinct memories of opening up my mom the doctor’s medical books, finding photos of people with rare diseases and goiters everywhere.
Now, I just have a very long list of “symptoms of …” in my Google memory bank to help illustrate a probable but undiagnosed case of hypochondria.
We’re more accurate, but are we more fun?
It takes nine seconds to enter a Google query and less than a quarter- second for Google to answer it.
Now, you can’t even win a meandering argument in which you were wrong, because everything can be proven.
For a while, I was winning so many bets because I could secretly Google irrelevant facts under the dinner table and look smart: “The Nile is not the longest river in the world and Dianne Feinstein did win the Senate seat in ’92. So, there.”
That is, until my parents got Blackberries, too. Then the conversation started going flaccid as someone would shout out “Google it!” between bites of corn on the cob.
I eventually surrendered myself to the newfound knowledge that my personal zeitgeist, my spirit of the times, is totally embarrassing. But you know what? So is the whole world’s. Phew.
Wondering what other people were curious about, I packed a sandwich and headed over to the site Google Zeitgeist, the Mecca for not feeling so bad about what you google.
Here, you can see what the whole world googles.
In the United Arab Emirates, for example, Nadya Suleman, the Octomom, was the No. 1 fastest-rising news search of 2009.
What was the top search in the U.S., you ask?
I forgot. I forgot. Google it. Oh – and that Zappa-Einstein thing? That, too.
Originally published in the Pasadena Star News on February 10th, 2010