Saturday, February 13, 2010

On self-incrimination

Every now and then, you should google yourself.

(I took a break there, just to make sure you did.)

Find anything interesting? 

I’m not a pathological self-googler, but I have done so with some irregularity over the past decade or so (have we had google for a decade yet? Was I really enlightened enough to think of the possibility of googling myself at the age of 14? [I was about to write “or that self-absorbed”, but then I read the number 14. Everyone is self-absorbed at 14… Not to pretend I’m not still self-absorbed. Is self-absorbed even a word?] And even if I was enlightened/self-absorbed enough, if google existed and if all other necessary conditions applied, would there have been much of a point?)

The answer to the final question firmly tucked into the parenthesis, is no. If you googled me ten years ago (still assuming google existed), you wouldn’t have found squant (for my pride’s sake, let me assure you that I know what “squant” is. Why? Because I googled it [*pride crumbles*]. You should too – it’s pretty entertaining. I can take another break if you want).

The reason you wouldn’t have found squant when googling me ten years ago (apart from the two obvious ones – a) squant hadn’t even been discovered; and b) you probably didn’t know me, so you had no idea I was googlable. To you, I was owiueuowihgew  – I really must try to limit my parentheses, they are becoming very difficult to follow… It’s got to do with my lack of opportunity to use them in my daily writing, methinks… I’ll just start the sentence over for this one, though…)

The primary reason you wouldn’t have found squant when googling me ten years ago is that I hadn’t done squant. I was 14, I had barely an idea that there was a world out there! Fortunately, I have come a little way since then.

A few years ago, when googling me, you’d find a few references to some school work, most notably a project submitted to a competition I participated in. I didn’t win, but my group’s work was displayed online nevertheless. A fairly decent online exposure.

With time, more hits appeared. My Facebook page is there (though it’s a closed profile, so no peek-a-peeking). A few references to stuff I’ve done at the university. Another project I participated in, this time a more serious one with actual employers. Definitely one I am proud to have attached to my name online. Last summer a new hit appeared, possibly the most prestigious-looking one. It’s there, out in the cybersphere, that I’ve been a lecturer at the University of Oslo. Granted, if you actually click on the link, it will reveal that it is for one day only, but perhaps people won’t be bothered to click?

There are also a few non-“professional” hits that I, nevertheless, am quite proud of. Most notably is the link to the Burrow – my notorious writers group – which in these days is hosting a February/Valentine’s feature without me. I am VERY sad to not being able to participate (stupid stupid stupid thesis), but I am also VERY impressed at the amount of work the few of them that were able to participate put down. The result can be found, as usual, at, and I highly recommend everyone to stop by. Whether you prefer sappy, sexy, sarcastic, sadistic, sensual, sympathetic, (in)sane or sweet drabbles, you’ll find it there.

The link between the Burrow and my name, however, isn’t entirely unproblematic to me, personally. It took a long time for me to be comfortable with telling people that I like to write. (Oops, I just told YOU, didn’t I..?) Having a blog, I guess, pretty much lets that particular cat out of the bag, but, as you may have noticed, I don’t write under my real name. Granted, my pseudonym is one that has been sticking with me for a long time, so a lot of people know the true identity of Cruella Collett. But there is a much larger quantity of people in my life who has never even heard of this Cruella-person (they only know the black-and-white puppy killer. I swear we’re not related). I don’t go out of my way to keep my two identities separate, but I don’t actively try to reunite them either.

Which brings me to the final point of my self-googling adventure (you were expecting that all my digressions had made me forget my conclusion altogether, hadn’t you? Well, that is the difference between a regular digressionist and me, the digressionista…). When I, for no reason at all, typed my own name (not my pseudonym) into google, the VERY first hit that came up was my blog.


That’s weird, I thought. How and why is my (actual) name linked to my fake-name written blog?

Then I started to consider the implications. It has become more and more common for people to google each other. Now, anyone who knows my name can find my blog. That is a little scary, to be frank, and it certainly makes me want to consider what it is I am posting here. Not that I am overly controversial, but you know. No more scandalous slandering of identifiable people…

Secondly, it is also very common for employers to google their potential employees. Very soon (or not so soon, depending on whether I manage to finish my thesis on time) I will be in the position of seeking employment. Is there anything in my blog making me less attractive for a potential employer? Perhaps they don’t hire people who make the Tower Bridge in gingerbread?

Ultimately, I don’t really think my blogging will be a problem, professionally or personally. But it did annoy me a little bit that, without my knowledge or approval, my two personas had been interlinked. So I did some research.

And what did I find?

The culprit is to be found right here. Me! I did it. I incriminated myself. I posted my actual name on my blog! Why would I do that? Now it will forever (or until google is eradicated by an electromagnetic pulse in 2012) be linked with my blogginess (blog meeting silliness equals blogginess). Was this the result of some unconscious desire to end the schism that have been hindering the “professional” me from bonding with the “creative” me? This isn’t really a plausible theory, however, since the “professional” me isn’t all that professional. Actually, the “professional” me is fairly creative in its unprofessionalism. Right. Such a good idea to tell potential employers googling me that I am unprofessional…

Oh, well. It’s out there now. Mari, meet Cruella. You were separated at birth, but now you are from now on going to live together like twins. The conjoined kind.


Jan Morrison said...

Hello, Being a good Canadian I did what I was told and with the same lame results I usually get. I have a very COMMON name - Jan Morrison - there are about a zillion of us - my name twins are a Cantor, a lawyer, a real-estate agent, an author of books on sexual abuse, a musician, some sort of artist, and on and blog didn't show up until about the fourth page! So there is some good in this - people can't neccesarily google me and find out that I'm too chatty on my blog and so forth. I can hide from those who are trying to find me from high school - GO AWAY -YOU DIDN'T LIKE ME THEN WHY DO YOU LIKE ME NOW? - and so forth.
all fun for the self-absorbed - who? moi?

Watery Tart said...


You really shouldn't be so shy, Mari. Though honestly, I ALWAYS call you Mari instead of Cruelle... knowing you personally and all. So it might have been ME, except I only use your last name when I mail you something.

I oughta google me again, but I'm clear that my REAL full name usually has a bunch of professional stuff and I NEVER use my first name on anything that also uses my full last name except that... so there is some 'citizen stuff' and the academic stuff, but mostly there is the writer. Tami Hart is WAY common and mostly not even me. No worries there.

J. M. Hunter said...

I love this post, Mari! I thought your name was Collette, which is a name I quite like, but Mari is a lovely name too so all is forgiven :)

I did go out and google myself in both my incarnations: J. M. Hunter (the pseudonym) and my real name. J. M. Hunter is a VERY good anesthesiologist, apparently, and also a builder, both of which I am not. It wasn't until 6 pages in that I got a hit from something I posted on Absolute Write about a literary agent.

Then I googled my real name - which happens to be very distinctive - and the first couple of pages were me. The real me, that is. Professional and academic accomplishments, facebook page, etc...

I chose to separate the two personas as an experiment; none of my friends and family know about my blog or visit it, and I'd like to keep it that way for now. However, imagine my surprise when one of my neighbors, whom I had never met, posted that she recognized the house I was describing in a post, and thought we lived in the same neighborhood.

It's strange how small the world is. Here's how she found me: I found this amateur designer that I really liked on apartment therapy, and from there found her blog and flickr, and started following it. It said she was from my hometown, but my hometown, while small, is not THAT small, so I thought it was a happy coincidence. I linked to her blog from my blog, and, following the link, she found my blog, and recognized the city I was describing. Turns out, she lives about three blocks over, in a house I adore, and her mother is my son's math teacher. HUH? So much for anonymity. When I told her that J. M. Hunter was just a pseudonym, she kind of gave me a weird look, like who did I think I was, Karen Blixen or something?

Like you, I also started second guessing what I was writing about. Not that I write anything super controversial, but I had this feeling like my cover was blown. Which is exactly the kind of feeling I was trying to avoid when I created the pseudonym in the first place.

Cruella Collett said...

Jan - ah, that is the utter paradox of Facebook, isn't it? Why do people who never gave a squant (this is possibly my new favourite word, seeing as I feel entitled to use it in whatever ridiculous circumstance there is) about you ages ago want to be connected to you now? My theory is that they all secretly loved and awed me and finally have come to their senses so they can declare it to the world... Either that, or people are too nosy...

Tami - my first name isn't rare enough to trigger a google search, it's the combination that does it. So it's all me. But thanks for offering to share the burden - I'll award you 103 extra digressionary points for that alone ;)

J.M. - Cruella Collett is a pseudonym I acquired years ago, inspired by the 19th century Norwegian writer Camilla Collett. So it is very unlinked with my real name.
I think my reason for separating Cruella and Mari was a way for me to control who would know what about me. The mingling of the two have been partly conscious. For instance, I have posted links to my blog on both my Facebook profiles, but I figured that very few people are interested enough in my affairs to bother backtracking my FB. So quite safe, actually. The recent discovery of the more tangible link to my name when googling me, however, was not conscious at all, and thus it suddenly felt rather terrifying. At the same time, I happen to believe it is good for me to admit to the world that, yes, my name is Mari and I am a Writer, so I try not to worry. If people want to read my blog, that's okay. But I still won't advertize it...

(Tami is right - I shouldn't be so darned SHY!)

Leanne said...

I'm also thoroughly unique - Google me, get me. Period. You mostly get concert programs and road race results, which is funny. ;-) And I don't want to rain on your love affair with "squant" (which you should feel free to continue using 'cause I think you coined it :-)) but the expression (and its variants) is actually "don't know squat" or sometimes the even more fun "diddlysquat" or "doodlysquat" (the former Firefox recognizes, but the latter has the dreaded red line...).

Did I get enough parentheses in there? ;-)

Cruella Collett said...

Leanne - you underestimate me. I do know the expression (I may very well have picked it up from you ages ago), I just "felt like" updating it. Or, to be more specific, even though I did know the expression I wanted to make sure I typed it right. Thus I googled it (pathological googler when it comes to other things than myself), BUT then I typoed it with an extra n. Which led me to the discovery of squant.

I approve of the number of parentheses in your comment, though ;)

Anonymous said...

Great post! Tnx.

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