October 2, 2008

Googling ex-girlfriends

Derek sent me a link to an Onion article that ends with a reference to "Googling ex-girlfriends" which made me think that it's been quite a while since I've ever tried Googling my ex-girlfriends.

The one and only time that I did actually try Googling ex-girlfriends, I was stymied by the fact that either I didn't know enough about their current situations (married name, location, etc.) to get a fix on them, or they had a common enough name that there was no way to find the specific person I was looking for in the Google morass.

I was struck by the wide variety in all the results that came up when looking for a specific name, however. While I rarely found the person I was looking for, I found plenty of people that were arguably more interesting than the girl I had dated, though I guess they'd have to be something notable to be ranked so high on the Google search. This discrepancy between reality and the results caused me to reflect on just why I was even looking for these people in the first place.

Why do people Google their ex-girlfriends (or ex-boyfriends/spouses, etc.)? If I ask you, you'll say you're just curious to see what they're up to, or you want to make sure they're having a good life or something like that. But, that's all baloney. There's only one reason people Google their exes, and that's to make sure that their ex is somehow more worse off or miserable than they are. People want validation for their own miserable experience, as well as ensuring that their ex is somehow worse off for not being with them anymore.

I've already moved through the whole Kubler-Ross stages of grief about my own miserable lot in life, and in general I'm not the sort of person who likes other people to suffer. So, I guess that's why I haven't spent a whole lot of time Googling my own ex-girlfriends. However, this all got me to thinking about what it would be like if I was comparing my own life to that of the more exotic people who would come up in my Google searches.

I devised a little experiment whereby I would first compile the names of every girl I ever kissed, then whittle it down to the subset comprising every girl who ever kissed me willingly, thus eliminating truth-or-dare hookups and that one really awkward scene where the police were called. I would then enter each name into the search box at Google.com and click the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button to go straight to the highest ranked result. (By the way, the first commenter who attempts to sully my little sociological experiment by making some off-color comment using an alternate meaning of "Lucky" will get smacked, or, complimented if it's particularly clever.)

I'm putting the following constraints on my research: Each name will be enclosed in quotation marks. Each name will be typed in using the form in which I would expect to find it written. If the person goes by a nickname or diminutive most of the time, then that will be used. However, if the diminutive is normally only used in a casual setting, I'll use the regular given name. If I know the married name, that will be used. Otherwise, I'll use their maiden name.

The Results:

Ex-Girlfriend #1 is a professor in the Philosophy department at Spring Hill College. A rather pretentious one from the looks of her website... Since I wouldn't want to be this person or even know this person from the looks of the site, I'm going to go ahead and call this one for me and say that I'm better off than the person that Google's turned up in this search.

Ex-Girlfriend #2 is a veterinarian in Madison, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, the name I searched for is gender-neutral enough that I could be looking at a guy. It's unclear from the LinkedIn profile I landed on. I'm going to give this round to the veterinarian, unless, of course, he/she is a post-op transexual veterinarian.

Ex-Girlfriend #3 brings up a Classmates.com profile, and although it's not really filled in, it appears to be a direct hit. The town and the timeframe match up with the actual person I was searching for. There's no other information there, so it doesn't tell me what she's doing now or anything, though. So, I'm disqualifying this round and moving on.

Ex-Girlfriend #4 is an orthodontist outside of Austin, TX. Orthodontist beats desk jockey, so orthodontist wins.

Ex-Girlfriend #5 is a middle-aged lady holding up a glass of champagne in her Facebook profile. I don't have a Facebook account, so I don't know if it would show me any more than this if I did. Either way, she's ugly, and apparently a drunk. I win this one.

Ex-Girlfriend #6 is a LinkedIn profile for a product designer and computer software consultant in Zürich, Switzerland. It seemed a little too good to be a girl that I actually dated, but then I noticed the LinkedIn profile mentioned BYU, so I might have scored another direct hit with this one. Zürich beats Tucson.

Ex-Girlfriend #7 is the former human resources director of a San Francisco company and "the 2nd former director of that company to be sentenced in the nation's first criminal trials for stock options backdating". Whoops. Let's just call this one for me and move on...

Ex-Girlfriend #8 is a profile at an athletics-geared social networking site of which I was previously unaware. I can see right away from the picture on the profile that this is the actual person I was seeking, and I can see from the data on the profile that said person is a way better athlete than I am. I'll call this round for her.

Ex-Girlfriend #9 is another LinkedIn profile of someone working in the Georgia State Department of Human Resources. I'm calling this one for me because that just sounds so boring.

Ex-Girlfriend #10's name is such a distinctive spelling that Google only has a single entry matching that query. It's a Classmates profile of the actual person I'm looking for that doesn't have much info at all. It does list a married name, though, and if I rerun the query with that name, I get another high school alumni page with even less info. Boo.

Ex-Girlfriend #11 is a swimwear designer. That's way cooler than me, but the swimwear's hideous, so I'm calling this one a wash.

Ex-Girlfriend #12 is a legal marketing consultant in Ohio. Her picture on her site is better looking than me, so I'm going to give this one to her.

Ex-Girlfriend #13 works in community journalism, whatever that is. Her website says she lived in Japan for 6 years, so that right there makes her cooler than me.

Ex-Girlfriend #14 arrives at a page of someone who has chosen an online pseudonym using the first name of her favorite writer and the last name of her second favorite writer. This just happens to coincide with the real actual name of the person I'm searching for. The person I found is an English high school pretentious aspiring writer girl. Since she's British, I shall use words like "wanker" and "prat" to describe her. Either way, I win.

Ex-Girlfriend #15 links to a page about an opera singer in the Juneau Opera. I was sure that this wasn't the person I was looking for until I saw a picture on the page and saw that it was exactly the person I was looking for. My memories of the time period in which I spent dating this person are really hazy in my mind, but I don't honestly remember her as a singer at all, much less at the level you'd have to be to perform with any sort of opera company. I feel bad for not knowing or remembering that, like I've really underestimated her or something, so I've got to give her the win here.

Ex-Girlfriend #16 is a representative on a church council in Newfoundland. She loses, because, well, it's Newfoundland.


I was surprised that I found any of the actual people at all. I assumed every single search query would be miles off the mark. So, that's something. One other surprising thing was that at one point I reran one of the queries to check something and noticed a different page came up first. Google's page ranking is so dynamic I saw it change in just a few minutes. For fairness sake, I went with the first one I found.

Other than that, it was much as I expected, and I feel that I effectively proved the hypothesis that random people found on Google are cooler than me.


gobstopper said...

I don't live in Newfoundland and frankly, I'm offended you would think I ever could. Also, why would you ever think I was a representative for the Frasier Road United Church. You had to have seen that and thought it was insane.

Aaron said...

Yay! Look everyone, a real live Newfoundlander! Right here on my blog!

Seriously, though, it's good to hear from you, whether or not you're an actual Newfie.