Dust in the (Virtual) Wind – Our Lives Online

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Was reading an interesting article the other day about how much specific information Google must have on every individual. The author, Gord Hotchkiss of Enquiro, kept track for 2 months of every search he made on Google and then sat down and took a long, hard look at where he had been. The article is sort of about how we should be concerned about how much info about ourselves and our habits could be put together by a company like Google if they cared to do so, which is nothing new. What was interesting was the author’s comments on his personal search history. He said:

“The point is not to go on about how I search. You could care less. The point is that search history gave me a snapshot of just what I was thinking about, at an average of about nine times a day. In looking back, I could remember what I was working on, what products I suddenly thought I needed, how much planning I was doing for an upcoming vacation, what new acquaintances I suddenly decided to Google to find out more about, and what arguments needed to be settled. I’d see queries come up, disappear for a few days, then suddenly re-emerge later, either in the same or modified form. It made me realize how integral online is to my life, and how much I depend on search to connect me to the vast and diverse content that sits out there. It mirrored my thoughts about upcoming purchases, life events, things that were bothering me, issues at work and just plain old time-wasters.”

This struck a chord with me too. Those of us who spend countless hours online never dreamed of a world where you could go back and reconstruct your actions over the past in such a way (well, maybe you 15 year olds out there did when you were younger LOL). It gives me a totally different perspective on what we do with our time.

I always seem to convince myself that when I’m online, I’m working, but if I think about the places I’ve been via Google in the last few days, it’s much more than that – it’s a closer reflection of where my mind is at than any other activity I do. Is this good? I don’t know. It’s different. It enables me to find out about anything on my mind in a matter of minutes, or seconds. It allows me to do the kind of work I never dreamed possible. And, in doing so, it constantly amazes me. So, Google, please continue to do no evil. And MSN, as you pursue your goal of beating the pants off Google, try not to do evil either. I like not having to think about whether or not I want to leave the breadcrumbs of my life in the virtual universe before I search out something on the web.

About the Author

Frances Krug has worked in market research since graduating from UCLA with an MA and CPhil in Latin American history. As an editor and online content provider for the last 7 years, she currently is Associate Editor at iNET Interactive, where she also directs Search Marketing Standard's email marketing program.

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One Comment

  1. ContentWorth

    Good point. I had succeeded in thinking all (or most) online time was work related, but thinking back on it I’d perform personal searches on a whim if I thought it necessary.

    I’d be interested in seeing just how much of “me” is online through search histories, etc. Then again, I may not want to know.

    Good post and point. I second your plea to Google and MSN. “Please, do no evil.” Or at least, try to keep to the evil to a minimum.