Under cover of darkness, with the shades drawn and the neighborhood fast asleep – save for a red fox making its rounds in search of prey – I went in search of myself.
The Google home page stood starkly before me and, like an addict unable to resist the urge, I Googled myself. I was afraid of what I might find. But I was even more afraid of finding nothing. After all, my life was at stake. If Google couldn’t find me, then my soul, my memories – even my very existence – were in doubt.
Googlo ergo sum? I was about to find out. My right pinkie hit “Enter.”
And there it was: my curriculum vitae spelled out before me in a list of some seven million blue links. Move over, Ralph Edwards. We’ve swapped the sentimentality of This Is Your Life for the narcissism of the Web. This is the 21st century, after all, and our egos have advanced greatly in the last 50 years. So, too, has the platform for sustaining that insecure little beast inside us. Today, the Internet and reality television alike proclaim, “This is my life!”
According to Google, then, here was mine:
I sell high-end homes in beautiful Big Bear Lake, in Southern California, and apparently I know what it takes to sell in any market.
When I’m not selling homes, Google says, I’m busy auditioning for movies in Hollywood. I even had a part in Biloxi Blues alongside Matthew Broderick. Now here was some digital validation: Since Broderick had a cameo in She’s Having a Baby, starring Kevin Bacon, that puts me just two degrees away from Kevin Bacon (according to the well-known rules of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon”). Being so closely connected to the Footloose star is enough to make anyone feel better about his existence, but I continued the search.
It seems I also make custom guitars in Sonoma, Calif. That sounds like a pretty hip gig, which probably explains the cool mustache Google shows me sporting while showing off a sweet-looking electric bass.
Perhaps most intriguing of all, I’m a University of Massachusetts research professor who specializes in the taxonomy of the hindguts of wood-feeding termites and cockroaches. Kevin Bacon may be able to dance, but can he dissect hindguts?
The list of my accomplishments, careers, hobbies, and interests went on and on. I’m an insurance agent, an optometrist, a surgeon, an illustrator, the director of the Ohio Lottery Commission, and a politician to boot! I’m a modern-day Renaissance man.
But Google searches return the bad with the good. Evidently, I’m also a sex offender, an identity thief, and a personal-injury lawyer.
I suppose there’s no such thing as a skeleton in one’s closet anymore. The Internet sure took care of that, and any dirty laundry is hanging out there for the world to see, too. But at least it’s proof of my existence.
Except that none of the above really described me. Rather, these were the lives and adventures of many other Michael Dolans throughout the world. Without my own digital presence, I was forced to play Walter Mitty, imagining lives spent walking in my namesakes’ shoes.
Google had failed me. Or perhaps I had failed Google. Either way, eGo (the act of googling oneself) had dealt a permanent blow to my ego, and my entire existence was in question. Perhaps I was in need of a search-engine optimizer to assuage my digital anonymity.
Then I heard a harrowing screech outside the window, pulling my attention away from the screen. It seemed the fox had found its sustenance for the night.
I was still searching for mine.