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Obsession Du Jour. Or Keep On Googling.

March 12, 2008

My March/April copy of Poets & Writers arrived the other day and on an initial thumbing through I was stopped in my tracks by an article by Frank Bures entitled, “I Google Myself, Therefore I Am.” In it he humbly admits he Googles himself every time he goes to the Internet; almost as many times as he checks his email.

He mentions a new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project which states “that 47% of people who responded to the survey have Googled themselves at some point, a 22% jump from five years ago. But only 3% admit to Googling themselves regularly.”

Although Bures feels that his constant Googling is a “pointless, vain, embarrassing, and existentially bankrupt exercise,” as a freelance writer he suspects (or rationalizes?) that his profession “requires” him to promote himself online plus the fact that he has a “unique” name might also lend itself to Googling. He continually tells himself, while typing his name, that he’s doing this so he can see what’s happening with his work; who might be quoting it; who’s linking to it…….. yada, yada, yada. Perhaps, as he says, it might be filling a deep need; a re-assurance that he’s still out there; to see what kinds of waves his life is making in the world and goes onto ask: “Isn’t that why writers, artists, and other insecure egomaniacs obsess over the Amazon rankings of their books, the comments on their blogs, the hits on their Web sites?”

I can relate to most this, but it’s not Googling my name (like the other 47 or so per cent of folk) that I do ad nauseam – although I have done that on occasion to see if my work still exists; nor is it checking my email – although I do that a lot too – but my obsession du jour is checking out houses for sale on the Internet; specifically those on “our” island out west where we’re hoping to move to……soon, if we ever find the perfect house.

It’s possible this fixation with potential new listings has something to do with the town in which we presently reside, which I’m not overly partial to. Okay I dislike it much more than I should and look forward to moving, so suspect that when looking at the different houses a part of me is already there.

N quakes at the thought of trekking across country with a house full of stuff. He’s a minimalist so believes in traveling light and not acquiring much of anything. His non-acquisitiveness is something I’m in mild agreement with, but his minimalism is far more extreme than mine, and it’s possible, when getting ready to move, he’ll keep asking me why the heck I would want to take that thingamabob or this doodad with me. So I’ll have to grit my teeth, and keep on packing. Despite this slight difference in our “what is essential and what is not,” attitude, for me moving is an adventure: a new environment to explore; lots of potentially interesting people to meet; a much, much “easier on the eye/s” place to be.

To expedite our move, I scan the housing websites regularly, okay often, although I know listings don’t change that much, especially now in this strange housing market, and it’s not possible for new homes to have been added to overnight (when I’ve checked them just before going to bed and again on rising). And with the time difference between the Midwest and West Coast, I doubt anyone’s listing their house at 4:45am PST.

As an artist (you know those supposedly sensitive, egomaniacal and insecure types) could this constant checking on the Internet be considered part of an “artistic temperament,” the kind that’s um…… (Bures mentions this above) egomaniacal and insecure (or even sensitive)? I like to rationalize that I’m not looking up “me,” per se, just something that pertains to….um….me and how my/our future might unfold in a different town.

The thing is I enjoy looking at people’s houses. I admire or grimace at the furniture, the art work on the walls, the sculpture (more of a rarity) and am thinking if I owned a good magnifying glass could even peruse the teeny books on the shelves. I mentally rearrange that furniture, knock down walls, add new ones, make some landscaping changes and can be a real snot about many of their choices. But some are exquisite.

Maybe it’s a quirk of the medium itself, or any medium that distances us from face to face encounters; maybe it’s a feeling of connecting to the larger world outside oneself while remaining anonymous. And a tad voyeuristic?

Or maybe it is just obsession. Obsession. Obsession.

Copyright © 2008

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