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Monday, January 30, 2012

161

How to Use the Internet

I have a request — less of a How to-Be a Girl, and more of a how-to-be-a-human-being-in-the-21st-century problem. My Google fu SUCKS. I can't find anything (anything USEFUL, anyway) on Google. This is not good. I hate having to trawl back through ancient blog posts to find links I remember reading about but can't relocate through a search engine, and am absolutely hopeless at background checking new acquaintances and getting answers to late-night, "I wonder whatever happened to that girl Randi from high school who's not on Facebook?" wonderings.

You have mentioned that you are a Google Wizard, and I am still ROYALLY envious of your account of being able to find a dude armed only with his first name and one of his past jobs to work from. I mean, I try to search for things using a variety of words specifically applicable to what I'm looking for, but it's failing me. I am not good with Google searches. I fear that I will be stuck in Wikipedia and IMDb land forever without learning a better way. Help? Please?

Let me just say right here that I feel weird about doing this! I only use my Google fu (niiice) for evil, pretty much. There, that feels better. I know we talk about not snooping, never snooping, don't snoop, but snooping is how I acquired this skill. And it's not just Google. Allow me to highlight some tricks to finding whatever it is you MUST FIND on the internet. Use at your own risk:

Who have they boned since we broke up?

Myspace was good for one thing: alerting you immediately to whoever your ex got with after you (if that new person was actually a new person). On Myspace, when a new friend was added, they were at the bottom of their friend list. Now, you have to use Twitter for that. So, the minute you break up, go look at who they follow/who follows them on Twitter. The top person on each list is the most recent addition. From there, you can watch over the course of days, weeks, MONTHS even, for all I care, as more people are added. Cross reference this list with their Facebook and look at the "Photos of ___" folder — both your ex's and their newest Twitter followers. If you have an hour to spare, VOILA! There they are, in the friend of a friend of a friend's "NYE 2012!!!" folder, just making out like it was going to be impossible to find pics of it on the internet.

Who is this [insert name or ethnicity or other identifying feature] they secretly dated during our courtship?

Go back through ALL of your lover's photos, and I mean all of them. Expand the "likes." One two year-old thumbs up from a person with an ümlaut in their name? Definitely that Swede. First names only are a little harder because then you have to scroll through years of three of the suspected Stephanies' wall posts to find the ONE "Fun night!" comment your lover left the correct Stephanie — as a response to her posting a photo of a piece of broiled salmon — the day after they hung out that one time three weeks after you started seeing him, but it is so worth it.

What is the wine store guy's last name?! I need to find pics to send to all my friends.

Okay, when all you have is a first name and either a school or place of employment, there are a few pretty successful ways to find this person. Using Facebook, find the page for the person's employer or the college they went to. Now scroll and scroll and keep clicking "Older Posts" at the bottom of the page. Don't stop to read anything, it's all boring. Do this dating back as far as you can stand. It takes maybe five minutes to load a few years of posts on an active page.

Now, using your computer's search function, search on their first name. Remember, if they are named something like "Matt" their name could actually be "Mathieu" so search on as few consecutive letters in their name as possible (mat) — you wouldn't want to miss them after all this work. This is how I found Paul, the wine guy. He turned out to be a very inactive Facebook user BUT he did, once, in 2010, post a brief reply to someone else's post on his employer's page about a special dinner they were hosting or something and it only took me about ten minutes to find it. And him. And his baby.

Site specific searching!

Another way of finding someone/thing is to use this SUPER AMAZING function on Google: site-specific searches. Oh man, I have had some major fun with this. That rapper who you know comments on a record collecting message board? All you need is their name or handle and the website. Make sure you use quotations around the name. This is what your search will look like:

"Stinky Fingers" site:shittyrapperstalkingtoeachother.com

And BOOM you have every single post they've ever written right at your fingertips. If you only have the person's real name, don't worry. Within message boards people slip up and you'll get to them that way too. This, of course, also works really well with college sites: colleges love to name drop on their stupid "student activities" pages or whatever and they rarely get rid of content. I think there are things with my first last name still up on my college's website from like 2001. Oof.

Load all results!

IMPORTANT: Always, when you receive your Google site-specific search results, go to the last page and click "repeat the search with the omitted results included." It will be at the very bottom there. Since you're searching on one particular site, Google will sometimes not show you everything because it thinks you will get bored of the same type of result or something? (Never.) If you don't go and tell Google to PLEASE SHOW ME EVERYTHING YOU'VE GOT, you can miss that entire super long back and forth your girl had with that guy from work on Twitter six months ago — long enough that within Twitter you wouldn't be able to search for it. Thank god for Google Cache!

Time-frame searching

So say all you have is a first name. THAT IS IT. And maybe a town? Using the site specific search function, first pick a place you think they might be, like Twitter or something. Next, in order to give Google a little bit of a break, try clicking on one of the time frames they offer you over on the left. Met this person at a party two days ago? Only search for references with their name and the name of the venue that have been posted within the last week. Just take whatever piddly info you have and by narrowing down where and when to look, you make Google a much more efficient machine.

Where can I get the fake garter nylons Rihanna had on?

First try Googling:

Rihanna illusion garter.

Try to think in the vocabulary of whoever would be writing about a certain topic or advertising an item. Clothing companies wouldn't want to use the word "fake" anywhere on their site, but "illusion" works.

Google Image Search

Next, when searching for an item you've SEEN but don't know the name of, always check Google Image Search results first. You could be clicking through links from the home page for days (and no, the new preview feature of a website's homepage does not help here). In fact, sometimes an item is only described the way you would describe it in the alt text or file name for a photo of it — the actual online description of the piece may not contain any of the generic words you're using to try to get to it. Por ejemplo, Google:

"Art Nouveau" "Rose Gold" Ring

Now compare the home page results to the Image results to the Shopping results. See?

Aggregate Search Engines

Use sites like Kayak.com for looking up airfare and hotel prices since they search all the other sites you'd use. Use Shopstyle.com for fashion questions like "Long white skirt" and you'll get results from dozens of sites you probably already look at all the time. Pinterest.com is getting pretty good for generic item searches too.

Google everything-else-search

Don't forget about Google Blogs search, News, etc. Blog searches are especially helpful for finding that one item or person who otherwise wouldn't show up on the internet. Fingers crossed they have a braggy sister who needed to post pictures of her bro with his new niece, Phoebe, on her recipe blog. ("George" "Phoebe" born uncle, within the past week.)

Why don't they like me anymore? I still like them.

I don't know. You didn't do anything wrong. Remember they treated you kind of crappy in the end though, right? That's not a nice thing and you want nice people in your life. You deserve nice people in your life who you don't have to beg for reassurance that they like you, or rifle through years of internet detritus to determine what went wrong, but instead will just tell you to your face. I don't know what the exact search terms are for finding someone like that, but according to my therapist, they might include:

"Love(s/d) their mother"

"No substance abuse issues"

"Actually single"



161 Comments / Post A Comment

Lily Rowan

All I know is, between this and the New Yorker piece on the Tyler Clementi case, I am SO GLAD there was no internet when I was a teenager.

major disaster

@Lily Rowan "I am SO GLAD there was no internet when I was a teenager." You don't even want to know how often I say this.

tortietabbie

@Lily Rowan There was internet when I was a teenager, so my refrain tends to be: "I am SO GLAD that (insert enormously bad decision, like handing out my real name and address and phone number to a stranger in a chatroom because People Online Are Nice) didn't end up in my corpse being dumped in the ocean!"

Lily Rowan

@tortietabbie I did many things that could have resulted in my corpse being dumped in the ocean, but at least there is no record of them.

missupright

@Lily Rowan I found an email from my dad the other day, sent the day I first met my now-best-friend in real life, asking me if I'd been bundled into a carboot on my way to the bottom of the Thames, and if not, to reply quickly so my mother would stop worrying.

To be fair, I was 16, in London, at night, on my own, so he was probably right to worry. LUCKILY, she was 16, in London at night on her own too. And now she is sitting opposite me in our bedroom asking me how to spell "spiegel". Life. Internet.

thebestjasmine

@Lily Rowan I am just reading the Tyler Clementi article now (and hadn't noticed this comment before) and was coming here to say that everything about the totally easy internet stalking that the roommate did creeps me out so much. Oh man, I am also so glad that there was no internet when I was a teenager.

Lily Rowan

@thebestjasmine I'm even more creeped out by how all of their chatlogs and etc. are now in the court records!

The Lady of Shalott

I bow down to you, you are clearly a google God.

Any One Ninja Plot

This makes me so happy, in an "I can't believe I'm not alone in being such a creeper" kind of way.

Quin

@Any One Ninja Plot Oh man, me too. A new ladyfriend mentioned her old Livejournal account and I proceeded to search for it by looking at the users who went to her (rather tiny) high school (information I had from some light Facebook stalking). Found! And then I found her other accounts, too. It was satisfying, even if I did feel like a stalker.

werewolfbarmitzvah

The thing I will never, ever understand about human beings: why would you want to know who they've been boning since you broke up??? WHY would you EVER want to know that??? Whatever happened to ignorance being bliss??? Masochists! Masochists ahoy!

Emby

@werewolfbarmitzvah Agreed. The less known the better. Let them live in peace and do yourself the same favor.

Party Falcon

@werewolfbarmitzvah No snooping, no creeping, no using your Google-fu (or government and/or university connections) for evil. It's just not a the Party thing to do. For good, for safety and/or for a complicated practical joke? You betcha.

But dudes, no sense in emotionally self-harming. Yeah, it feels so good for a little while, but that shit scars.

sparrow303

@werewolfbarmitzvah Cosigned, no looking! I prefer to assume that he was run over by a bus weeks ago and no one has thought to tell me yet.

apb
apb

@werewolfbarmitzvah Are you guys serious???? There is no curiosity that burns like this one.

Craftastrophies

@Party Falcon Emotionally self-harming is a VERY accurate way to put that.

Any One Ninja Plot

Also: "it only took me about ten minutes to find it. And him. And his baby" <---creepiest italicizing of the word "baby" ever.

J Walter Weatherman

@Any One Ninja Plot That was the point at which I started reading snippets aloud to my flatmate.

lisma

Googling/stalking is one of my most favorite activities. I've gotten so good at it that I thought for a brief while that I should become a private investigator.

emilylou

@ginalouise I, too, have Jane-level "internet research" (= stalking) skills, and have fantasized about becoming a PI. I mean, after so many successful Facebook/Twitter discoveries on the most threadbare of evidence, you kind of start to wonder, you know?

It'd be kind of like real-life Bored to Death, and who wouldn't want that?!

Hot Doom

@emilylouise Yes! Back in the olden days of college, pre-FB, some of the girls in my house would come to me to get dirt on their high school boyfs, in return for chocolate. Creepiest humblebrag ever.

Faintly Macabre

@emilylouise Me too! I have ridiculous google-fu, though my life is usually too boring to use it for anything besides looking up clothes and blogs I read 5 years ago. (Example: I recently found an almost exact copy of a lost ring with only sterling, dog, picture, and ring as descriptors.) I figure there must be lots of people out there like my mother, who can barely use gmail.

acid burn

@emilylouise Totally. Although maybe it would take some of the fun out of it, if strangers were paying me to stalk people, rather than just doing for my friends, out of THE LOVE OF THE HUNT.

My favorite creepy moment (although this was all luck, not skill) was last week when my friend started seeing a guy, and sent me a link to a photo on page 10 or something of an album from a wedding they'd both attended a few years back. 30 seconds of random clicks later I was like "Oh, is this also him, on page 78?" And it was.

purefog

This isn't intended to be snarky, as my 'net skills are not THAT great, but if LW has trouble doing a Google search, s/he might have trouble doing some of these other things too.

acookieaday

Speaking of searching. I've had a hard time searching the Hairpin and other blogs for vaguely remembered previous posts that may or may not have contained what I remembered them containing. Can you search for multiple tags? Also is there a list of tags somewhere?

phlox

@acookieaday I have found that doing the site specific search on Google works better with the Hairpin than the built-in search there, especially because the built-in search doesn't include the comments.

fondue with cheddar

@acookieaday It seems like a list of tags should exist but I've yet to find it.

Craftastrophies

@acookieaday And if you can remember a particular turn of phrase or an unusual word, use that to search instead of a theme. Try variations, you might be misremembering.

Like, If I wanted to search for this post I'd probably search for 'and his baby'. But maybe I'd misremember that as 'and his kid', so I'd try a few variations. Or I might try 'google fu', because that's unlikely to be used in most posts.

phlox

@Craftastrophies Yes! I spent too long trying to find where someone linked to Unfuck Your Habitat by looking for variations on Clean Your Shit Up, because all I could remember was a swear word and cleaning.

Megoon

@acookieaday Yes! Especially helpful on publication websites when looking for a five-year-old article on traveling in Venezuela or whatever. I recently found a New Yorker article about a Prada saleswoman that I read in high school, based on the phrase that stuck with me, "multiple orange pigtails."

major disaster

One thing to keep in mind when doing this - many sites log referral stats, and the person you're google-stalking may very well have access to those stats. Although the location attached to your IP may not be 100% accurate, the person whose blog you're clicking on a million times may very likely be able to figure out that it's you (particularly if it's, say, a low-traffic personal blog). One of the sites that came up for my ex's name would send him an email every time someone clicked on it, along with the person's location.

alphabiddycity

@major disaster YES! This is something to be very aware of! I never/rarely go to a site if I think it might log statistics... mostly because I obsessively check my own referral logs.

wobbletown

@major disaster When I was on LiveJournal back in the day there was some kind of add-on tracker that would not only give you IP addresses and probable locations but ALSO the LJ username of your audience if they were logged in when they visited your page. Which meant that I knew that my (then) boyfriend's ex-girlfriend relentlessly read my LJ posts, and I could follow the links back to her own LJ to see the snarky things she was saying about me.

Which is why I rarely snoop these days - people have ways of knowing.

SarahP

@wobbletown AHA! I always suspected something like that mght exist, and so I signed out whenever I wanted to read friends-of-friends' backlogs, etc. I sorta thought I was being too paranoid, but now I know I WAS BEING SAFE.

Bus Driver Stu Benedict

@major disaster One very good reason to always use webmail: if the person who you blog-stalk happens to be a huge nerd, they can cross-check email headers with those logs and find out exactly who you are. So, always use gmail or something when emailing paranoid/obsessive people (basically everyone).

And just to clarify, I was not the huge nerd in this situation, surprisingly.

Verity

@wobbletown I seem to remember that a few years ago an option was introduced that would allow you to see when your profile had been viewed (and by whom), but by doing that you would be able to be seen by other people when you viewed their profiles. (I turned it down, as I snoop a bit too much.)

timesnewroman

@major disaster You can't do that for Facebook though, right? Right?!?

major disaster

@timesnewroman Heh, I don't think so, or at least, I don't think users have access to it (I'm sure Facebook probably does collect it, though).

timesnewroman

@major disaster Just think, somewhere Facebook has a massive database of obsessive crushes...

alphabiddycity

Oh thank god I'm not the only one with straight-up stalker search skills. It makes life more exciting when you find random poetry from a guy you boned once on his high school's website. It also makes you reexamine your sanity/priorities.

The Bitchuation

there is also a lot to be found by googling someone's email address...a lot of sites use this as a sign-in and you might find the comic con flickr album or crazy conspiracy website that save you from a first date with a guy who otherwise seemed totally dateable from his online profile.

@The Bitchuation You have the best username ever.

The Bitchuation

@S. Elizabeth why thank you! it was going to be my roller derby name but I'm too clumsy/health insurance deficient to do roller derby. but The Hairpin is like the Derby Dolls of the internet, right??

wee_ramekin

Speaking of internets: Is anyone else's computer loading the Hairpin pages reeeeeeally slowly today?

major disaster

@wee_ramekin Yes!

Jane Marie

@wee_ramekin yes! we're sorry and we're trying to fix it.

Emby

@wee_ramekin Yep.

wee_ramekin

@Jane Marie Oooo, thanks for letting us know! I was having a really paranoid moment where I thought that maybe my work finally started monitoring my Hairpin time and was passive-aggressively slowing down my access to the site. Is that even possible? Did I just reveal a lot about the way I think by imagining that scenario?

liznieve

@wee_ramekin Uh huh, and it's making my work day procrastination REALLY DIFFICULT.

redheaded&crazy

@wee_ramekin oh my god i had this exact same thought. so no, you are not too paranoid. (at least, you're not the only one)

bunB

@wee_ramekin Yup, thought the EXACT same thing.

PistolPackinMama

@wee_ramekin Meeee toooooooo.

Big Brother works at a Benedictine college...

nonvolleyball

please allow me to brag about my proudest google-fu moment:

I manged to track down the video for Department of Eagles' "No One Does It Like You" despite not knowing the name of the band, the title, or any of the lyrics. (my husband & I saw it playing in a bar, on mute, without any attribution.)

I don't even remember which of many terms finally did the trick--it was a slow process--but I'll never forget how amazed & thrilled I was when it finally worked. especially since my husband had already tried to find it & deemed it impossible. (also, that video is amazing, & is actually even creepier when viewed without sound.)

Verity

@nonvolleyball This morning I managed to find a book on linguistics I had read in university and which had had an amusing thing in it that I wanted to quote simply by remembering the topic, a library I knew had it, and the author's first name. Not as impressive as yours, but I was still proud.

hahahaha, ja.

@nonvolleyball: That's pretty impressive! My awesomest moment was when I successfully Googled the name of a painting that my bf at the time had randomly found on the internet. I have since forgotten it because I am that klassy when it comes to art.

nonvolleyball

@ietapi @verity three cheers for successful sleuthing! although doesn't it blow your mind to realize that we are among the last generation that will ever remember a time before internet searches were a thing?

hahahaha, ja.

@nonvolleyball: CARD CATALOG O_O

acid burn

@nonvolleyball There have been three separate occasions (including just now) where I google-sleuthed out the name of that one saxophone-heavy song from the late 1970s that I always think doesn't have any lyrics, but then once I find it I realize it does. Anyway, it's "Baker Street " by Gerry Rafferty? YOU'RE WELCOME.

EmmaJane

@nonvolleyball That video is truly freaking weird, and can imagine even more so no sound!

nonvolleyball

@EmmaJane I know, right? hence my pressing need to see it again/find out what song it could possibly be for. (it also works eerily well when paired with one of the tracks off of NIN's Ghosts--perhaps unsurprisingly--but I can't remember which one now.)

karion

Has anyone, in the history of ever and the internet, found something good as the result of snooping? Everything you find is pretty devoid of vital context, and only gives you one really weird perspective of whatever you were looking for.

You'll forgive me. A good friend snooped through her BF's phone this weekend and the results were EXACTLY what you would expect, which is sort of bad, but maybe not?

Anyway, I am the last weirdo on the internet that feels terrible for looking through the photo albums of my friends on Facebook. It always feels like creeping through a photo album in the study whose door just happened to be open while I was upstairs using their bathroom and snooping through their medicine cabinet.

wee_ramekin

@karion I found out the TSG's real name from Google-snooping. That was good :). (Though fat LOT of good it did me...)

sox
sox

@karion I agree that nothing good has ever come from my attempts to snoop...and after finding something really, really sad about an ex's ex last summer I lost the urge altogether. But looking at friends' photo albums on FB is kind of the point? I mean, they posted them up there to share; it's not like googling and finding some picasa account with photos of that one hottie presenter from you biz management course's honeymoon. Not that that happened ever.

fondue with cheddar

@karion Weeellll...they did post their pictures on the Internet. So I'd say it's more like looking through the photo album that's sitting on their coffee table.

SarahP

@jen325 And if it's on facebook, it's as if it has a post-it on it that says "take a look!"

redheaded&crazy

@jen325 speaking of which, can we get thoughts on facebook PDA? I mean, I'm okay with people having a profile pic with their partner in it, but photo albums of the two of you kissing? do not need to see.

/grinchy???

Two-Headed Girl

@karion I was just talking about this with a friend today, actually, and both of us find it creepy as well. Kind of like they KNOW you've been looking, or something like that.

Xanthophyllippa

@redheadedandcrazy Not grinchy at all, but that's because I recently saw a shirtless picture of a friend's husband that I really wish I hadn't seen.

@Xanthophyllippa And because we are way too close and actual real friends, I'm going to tell you this: please don't look at that picture anymore. Also, why don't we share our feelings via gchat?

Xanthophyllippa

@S. Elizabeth I actually dropped the friend out of my news feed because of the photo. It was really, really scary.

mayonegg

<3 u Boolean logic

collier

@mayonegg : I KNOWWWWW, why isn't everyone else doing this? You guys, if your searches are returning a bunch of garbage that has a lot of elements in common, try it again with boolean search syntax. Like, if you're looking for a nail polish called All The Effing Glitter Ever and getting ten million blog hits and a thousand links to shopzilla crap or whatever, try phrasing like "nail polish" "All The Effing Glitter Ever" -blog -shopzilla. putting phrases in "quotes" makes google search for that exact string of words, not just each individual word, and putting a -minus in front of something makes it exclude results that contain that word. This will change your life.

packedsuitcase

Okay, I am the Google Guru in my group of friends (who else can take a guy's first name and general age and find him in 5 minutes flat? Or find the guy you banged the night before based on first name, sport he plays, and position and find out his life history and salary? Oh yeahhhhhh) but you. You are a Google Goddess.

Beericle

@packedsuitcase I used to be a tv news producer. I can find people, info, contact information via the google like a boss. Also a note to those of you that may end up on the news. Manage your FB settings or those pictures are totally up for grabs.

packedsuitcase

@Beericle I bow down to your Google fu. And yeah, I have privacy settings on my pictures crazy high just in case I ever go crazy and make the 10 o'clock news or, you know...my boss does a Google search for me.

Cup full of cactus

@Beericle Agreed. I'm an attorney and (sadly) sometimes my job requires me to dig into the internet lives of both clients and adversaries. It is shockingly easy. The law on social media and privacy is lagging behind developments in search technology. From what I'm seeing, there's an older generation that is mostly unaware or ignorant about the privacy risks on the internet and there is a younger generation that is cavalier or naive about it. (See, e.g., the recent conversation about the "p-card.") If you're going to be active on the internet, it's best to keep multiple handles, never use your primary email address as a login ID, and keep those privacy settings high.

travelmugs

@Cup full of cactus My college roommate was interested in a dude from one of her classes, and he hinted at doing community service.

Due to a particularly awesome Journalism Research course and Google Fu I was able to pull up his arrest record. It was "just" trespassing.

Porporina

Mildy related; I just started seeing a dood who has no internet presence...So. Frustrating. Seriously, I find myself googling him daily just to see if I just missed something. And also how is that even possible?! Zero presence. Argh!

Tuna Surprise

@Porporina

I dated a guy who had such a generic name (think 'John Smith') he was ungoogleable! My friends would ask for his name thinking they were sly and could google him when I wasn't looking but it was all in vain!!

purefog

@Porporina Perhaps he has given you a phony name? :o)

leonstj

@Porporina - It's insane, right? There was a HS good-friend / bandmate of mine who followed me cross-country on one of my misadventures in college, and it ended up being really bad for his life, with me among the bad influences.

Years have gone by and we've fallen out of touch, and so now I'd like to get in touch with him again, see how he's been these years, if things have turned around - but NOTHING. His family moved out of our town while he was roaming cross-country, and I was the last person in our HS circle of friends to know how to get in touch with him, he's just...vanished.

It's really bizarre, how people can have no internet presence.

Emby

@Tuna Surprise The generic name is a blessing and a curse. It's very difficult to find me, specifically, on the Internet unless you know what you're looking for -- but it's very easy to find all kinds of potentially awful things about people who have the same name as me.

AllyMcBLT

@Porporina Does he at least have an email address? I finally found a college ex I'd always wondered about who also had maddeningly little internet presence by not only googling his full email address, but also his username (i.e, if his email is, say, dave12345@hotmail.com, try just searching "dave12345"). I ended up finding my ex's comments on a very obscure electronics self-help message board, and the comments not only gave away that it was in fact the same guy, but that he is now married and has a baby. It was probably the most proud and ashamed of myself I have ever felt at the same time.

Porporina

@AllyMcBLT We haven't exchanged e-mail addresses, but that's a good call! I think it's mostly frustrating because if you put in the right search terms I'm all kinds of google-able. He does have a sort of common name (not quite John Smith, but not Englebert Humperdink either). @leon.saintjean I don't get it either! So bizarre!

sox
sox

@AllyMcBLT Oh for effs sake. I feel like heroine addict who just fell off the wagon. WHYYYYYY did you roundaboutedly suggest that I google that email address?
*CLOSE TAB SOX, CLOSE TAB!*

(eta, no not dave12345 silly. the one whose name I changed in my phone to Stop Wasting My Time.)

angelinha

@Porporina If this weren't totally creepy I'd suggest you give us all his name and see what we can dig up, but I understand that that's probably not for the best.

Porporina

@klibberfish Don't think I didn't think about it! He's a forthcoming gent, so I can just, like, ask him things? But really, where's the fun in that?!

AllyMcBLT

@sox Oh, I'm so sorry. It's a blessing and a curse, the Google Fu :-/.

angelinha

@sox Oh noooo! What did you find?

sox
sox

@klibberfish Nothing crazy or anything...it's just the topsy turvy tummy I get at anything associated with him and the relapse to the land of Letting Him Waste My Time.

@AllMcBLT I did close tab and will keep this trick in my back pocket only for good magic in future times :)

sevanetta

@Porporina I have gotten quite annoyed when going on dates with guys who turn out to have no internet presence or, due to a really generic name, just don't turn up in searches. A large part of my annoyance is that because my name turned out to be incredibly unique (I'm Australian, my first name is a common Western name, my last name is Italian and not common, turns out that combo is killer) I am all the google results on the first page, even though I haven't done a lot of stuff on the net and am pretty fierce with my privacy settings. It's not fair! If they can just type in my name and find all this stuff that other people put up about me, I want to be able to read the same amount of information about them! My solution for this problem is going to be writing a blog under my real name to bury all the older stuff and thus devalue my current search results...

Porporina

@sevanetta that is part of my annoyance too! I am easily found on the intertubes because I do a lot of theatre, so if you search for me there I am! I also have really strict privacy settings on my facebook and that sort of thing, but any reviews of shows I've been in or theatre companies I've worked for are easily found. Grrr! Damn you mysterious people!

sevanetta

@Porporina It also annoys me because some people get quite sanctimonious about not-being-googleable, like, OH well :I: never put anything identifying about myself on the internet, it's soooo dangerous and :anyone: can read it! This always makes me grumpily silent, because they are pretty much saying that you are an idiot for having done anything that someone wrote about, ever. But since you are getting written about for theatre and I have been written about for volunteer work, maybe we should feel good that we are doing things that are interesting enough to be written about? :nods:

Craftastrophies

@sevanetta My ex is just nowhere on the internet, despite what should be an extremely google-able name. Frustrating. I don't seem to pop up, either, although you can find me on facebook. And I am EXTREMELY googelable with 'craftastrophies'. I sort of wish I'd broken myself up into more personalities. Oh, well.

@kilbberfish, no, because then if we/he googles, it will come up with this page? The only thing more embarrassing than being caught google stalking someone: crowdsourcing googlestalking them.

Craftastrophies

@Craftastrophies Aaaaaah you guys, I just found his facebook profile. By remembering his sister's name, and finding his mum's facebook. He has a private profile. But his one photo I can see is enough to satisfy my feeling superior and lucky. Yay!

And now I feel creepy.

jamie schuh

I thought I was a Google Stalking Pro, but this is awesome. Once in college I tracked down this guy at the local video store that my friend liked, and I don't even think we knew his name.

But also, that last section applies to me (wahhh), so thanx for the internet hug/reassurance, Jane.

Emby

So, my real name is the same name as the brother of a heinous murder suspect here in DC, and when you search my name + DC (as would be a reasonable thing to search when looking for me), the very first google result is a headline that is "(My name) to Cop: You Motherfuckers Need To Be Out Looking For The Real Killers"

So... that's fun. Especially since I'm a writer and my name is essentially my reputation.

(And yeah yeah, it's really easy to figure out my real name from searching that, but let's just keep that between us, shall we? OK thanks.)

BoozinSusan

@Emby You wrote for the Simpsons??

Toby Jug

But what if your real name is really distinctive and one of the first times you altered the internet (6th grade) you posted a shitty poem about the "boy who lives on [redacted] lane" on a poetry website and used your name in the poem and now YOU CANT SHAKE IT FROM YOUR OWN NAME'S GOOGLE SEARCH RESULTS.

wee_ramekin

@Toby Jug Wow. Is Toby really that distinctive a name? (I kid, I kid :)...)

leonstj

@Toby Jug - Then you invent fake "Toby"s and live as them for a few months online, only to move on to a new fake "Toby". Fill the internet with confusing contradictory data and bury the real you!

Toby Jug

@wee_ramekin Actually I just googled myself and now half of the results belong to the one other person in America who has my name (but not my age- she can't be more than 19), so now the bad poem is gone but a tacky myspace and facebook group have sprouted up in its place.

Toby Jug

@leon.saintjean @wee_ramekin My name isn't Toby! I'm much better at the internet ten years after the poem nonsense.

gobblegirl

@Toby Jug Much cleverer. Her first name is Jug. SHE TRICKED ALL OF YOU BWA HA HA HA.

sevanetta

@Toby Jug I feel your pain.

travelmugs

@Toby Jug The person who uses my @firstnamelastname combo on Twitter just posts a lot of vapid inspirational quotes. I really hope people who google me don't think it's me. :-/

Xanthophyllippa

@travelmugs A number of people with my real First Name Last Name on Facebook do not have their privacy controls engaged, with the end result that my mother occasionally gets email from HER friends saying how they added me on Facebook. Yes, because since the last time they saw me (five years ago), I went from being in my late 30s, 5' tall, pudgy, and curly-haired to being in my early 20s, 5' 7", lanky, ultra blonde, and spray-tanned.

nervousrobot

@Toby Jug THAT HAPPENED TO ME TOO. But I got really lucky. After reading this article, I googled myself and I found that the site with the poem no longer exists. It was a beautiful, beautiful thing.

bangs
bangs

Just yesterday I was thinking how there should be blog specific search on google, but I guess there is! Good to know.

Also twice I have had to google potential suitors because they had extraordinary stories and I needed to make sure they weren't making it up. Both times they were telling the truth.

cheapchampagne

@Xaxa YES. I've done that twice, too (and like you, confirmed their stories both times). This is usually the only time I give into the urge to google guys I'm dating/intend to date.

Lily Rowan

I actually do have some pretty good Google-fu myself --- just this morning I found a page that had been taken down, thanks to site search + pulling up the cached version of the page.

movieormaybe

Another trick is following the usernames. People rarely start from scratch with both an anonymous email address AND anonymous messageboard usernames, there's usually overlap from old accounts that were set up before people knew what they were getting into with this whole lack of privacy thing. So, the truly dedicated can google their way from an account that's publicly associated with X to one that's supposed to be their super-secret anonymous login.

For example, supersecretman32 on OKCupid may not give away any hints about his real identity on that site, but googling 'supersecretman' might take you to a post on a message board with the user email 'snookypookie@aol.com' which then if you google can take you to another post elsewhere (usually back in the dawn of the internet) which has been registered to davephilips@nyu.edu. FIRST NAME. SURNAME. SCHOOL. BOOM.

Craftastrophies

@movieormaybe I am sad about the way my mailcity account disappeared into the ether for a bunch of reasons. But it did happen right about the same time I chose a nice new username. I am thankful.

punkahontas

I don't consider any of that snooping. It's all public information, so there should be no guilt! In my opinion, it's only snooping if it's someone's private property or is password protected.

If you can find it with google, it counts as"RESEARCH."

major disaster

@punkahontas I actually find it strange when people say the don't google, especially in the context of online dating where you're putting a whole lot of trust in a complete stranger. My reaction is usually, like, I guess you don't like me enough to actually be curious to see what else you can find about me? One of the most useful things for me is just to be able to confirm various facts a person has told me. Like the guy who guy who lied a lot about his age, as well as the fact that he had just gotten engaged around the same time he was contacting me. Or the guy who said he was an astronaut? Not an astronaut. (Okay, I made that one up.) The guy who said he won a bronze medal in the Olympics? Really did win a bronze medal in the Olympics. (That one was real.)

bangs
bangs

@major disaster I came across an adventure racer and a professional snowmobile jumper. Both true. Though I've never been able to confirm if the snowmobile jumper had a Guinness world record or not.

gobblegirl

This is almost all people-finding advice, which is great/creepy.
My advice to the LW if she's mostly interested in non-people stuff is to think like a thesaurus (like in the stockings advice):
Use as many details as you can, and if there's no luck think of different ways to say it. Or can you remember something about the CONTEXT of the image/post/link? You can search for that, and then at least you're at the right part of the internet to start clicking through things.
So in short: synonyms.

Jon Custer

@gobblegirl Agree to that, however, for technical questions it's often better if you DON'T try to think like a thesaurus. Typing in "How to get rid of fucking line won't go away Word" often works just great. I'm really good at Excel but I often forget the names of formulas or the exact syntax, or like if I want to use VLOOKUP or INDEX, so I just type in my situation and "excel" in Google and that usually puts me in the right place.

Also, I HIGHLY recommend Googling "________ scam" for any potentialyl dodgy-sounding arrangement, and "_______ sucks" for any company you're thinking of spending a lot of money or signing a contract with. You'll get a lot of results for any bank or phone company, but often it will unearth useful tidbits.

You can even combine the two: "HTC sync sucks" provided some great tips on how to make HTC's awful, awful software actually do its fucking job.

Elsajeni

@Jon Custer I once solved an annoying problem where the Help menu in Word wouldn't close by searching, IN THE WORD HELP WINDOW ITSELF, "help opens every goddamn time i open word for christ's sake make it stop".

angelinha

Oh Hairpin whyyyyy. I thought I was done googling my current potential future boyfriend and then I read this and now cross-referencing July 2011 Facebook posts with the acknowledgements section of his [publicly available] dissertation I think the last girl mentioned was a former flame! I hope I can find out everything there is to know about her before the Bachelor airs. And I was going to redo my resume tonight, too. Sigh.

redheaded&crazy

comment fail. ok i have to say, as much as I have gone into embarassing detail about you-know-who on this here site, since blocking I have not once looked at nor asked friends to look at, any goings-on or info on facebook.

i am very proud of that. it feels gooooood.

wee_ramekin

@redheadedandcrazy That is a Serious Achievement, and I am not being even 1% sarcastic. Good job, m'dear!

Craftastrophies

@redheadedandcrazy For reals?

You are Strong. I am impressed.

MissJulie

No google fu? ASK A LIBRARIAN!

PistolPackinMama

@MissJulie Seriously. FOR REAL. That's what they do, and they do it so, so, well.

elbow123

another tip: if you only have a phone number (like if can't remember the name of the guy you met at a bar last week and he just texted you) try googling the number and the word Facebook. People rarely make the "I lost my phone! post numbers" groups/events private so the results should lead you to your mystery man/woman. Good luck!

Hot Doom

@elbow123 Also, all those yellowpages-style sites make it really easy to find people and addresses related to the phone number.

syd515

I'm so glad that I am not the only one with crazy google skills that have extended IRL. The county courthouse also offers a wealth of resources for free back round checks and/or reading court cases. Also don't forget to follow through on youtube accts and whatnot to find more then one facebook acct. Long story short, my family and I have been dealing with a crazy person who's made threats but we can't get a restraining order... so constant googling and court house searches have allowed us to keep a pretty decent idea of what the person is up too.

chubby ninja

I want to kiss the sweet, sweet face of whoever wrote this.

Eden

My online search skills are legendary -- people have always asked me to find things for them and I don't really understand what I do different that everyone else. Maybe I'm just unafraid of digging.

I think Facebook has made this thing much less fun -- it's not as much of a challenge and people can keep things private. Still, it's put me in contact with a couple of cool people for blog entries I've written.

(I am actually surprisingly hard to find online -- some of that is that I share my somewhat-unusual real name with a couple of other people, but some of that is by design. But if people are interested enough, I'm not impossible to locate either.)

sevanetta

@Eden This is how I feel about Google. People say to me 'Wow, you're such a great researcher, how do you FIND THINGS!' and I always feel like I'm hiding this big fakey secret, because the reality is that I just type words into Google until I get what I want?

Craftastrophies

@sevanetta I once had a conversation with a couple I was friends with. He was the IT guy at my workplace. She said 'I can't find what I want. I'm googling 'how do I tie my shoes'* and nothing's coming up'. And we both said 'try 'shoe tie tutorial'' at the same time. There is definitely a knack to it, and phrasing is a big part of that, especially if it's something that's going to generate a lot of random hits and garbage sites.

*Obviously not really this. It was something more interesting and complex which obvs I can't remember.

Donna Danger@twitter

Being awesome at Google-fu was horrible for me in this past break up. I spent a good chunk of the first few weeks semi-drunk and reading through five year old blog entries (some of them on suicidegirls, uh). This was, as may be obvious, NOT GOOD for my mental health. Except for me realizing that he had been just as much of a juicebox way back then. He is blocked on facebook, and I have to give props to their developer team for the twisted genius psychology of that feature. Whenever you try to unblock someone, it shows you a confirmation window that asks you if you're really sure and reminds you that after unblocking someone, you can not reblock them for 48 hours. Somehow, that has proved more effective for me than any well intentioned friends advice. Anyhow- two weeks in I caved on the no-contact and got a hold of him to ask him, pretty please, to just make his damn twitter feed private for the next month or two, as I am currently unable to stop myself from sneaking peeks at it and getting upset. After back & forth and heart to heart, in which he shed tears and I did not (YES), he agreed and I have been that much less aware of him, which is for the good. Yea.
Buuut, I still miss his stupid face. :( Onward and upward.

redheaded&crazy

@Donna Danger@twitter the inability to reblock for 48 hours is DEFINITELY the best feature that exists on facebook.

and i say that as an AVID fan of event making AND photo albums!

wow capitalize a few more letters there dude

Jon Custer

I was just going to write something self-righteous about how I just don't do anything bad online, and post under my own name (look, I'm doing it now!) and anything you do online will eventually come out, etc.

I still think that, but I just Google-fu'ed myself and found quite a few things I'd forgotten about, including two unfinished Wikipedia entries and a whole set of photos from a trip to Montreal that I thought I'd lost. So it's worth doing even if you don't think you're leaving a trail of shame across the ether!

redheaded&crazy

does anybody have a second facebook account that they use for whatever devious purposes?

I do not! But I know someone who does... I know a few people who do...

Xanthophyllippa

@redheadedandcrazy I have a second account that I use for venting and being emo. I will not friend anyone with that account; its entire reason for existing is to be cheaper than therapy.

ELECTROMAGNETIC CHAOS

@redheadedandcrazy: A lot of models/pros that have something to do with media have second accounts (one 'business', one personal).

Megasus

@redheadedandcrazy I have contemplated getting one exclusively to give myself things for FB games.

Diana

Have you guys ever been on the other side of an awkward over-Googled encounter? I snoop as skillfully and as frequently as Dear Jane, but I'm pretty careful about never letting on. But twice (!) in my life, I've been in conversations with friends of friends who are not so discreet, and I've had that jarring realization that this person has googled the shit out of me, has followed significant portions of my online life, and knows quite a few details about my circle of friends, lovers, etc. It was flattering but very disconcerting. Google me if you must (and you probably must, it's okay) but don't let me know!

redheaded&crazy

also does anybody even remember life before google?

ELECTROMAGNETIC CHAOS

@redheadedandcrazy: Before Google, for me, there was... Lycos. Here Lycos!

halfheartedyoga

ugh so google fu-ing myself i discovered that my HOME ADDRESS and email come up from when i registered a web site as a gift to a friend two years ago. this is particularly irritating because i changed the billing to friend's info/email like a year ago.

how can i make it go away? the offending inofmration comes up on the whois section of name.com; the web domain is also registered through name.com --- but when i login to change things, my address doesn't show up on the profile.

any ideas? am i explaining this poorly?

ELECTROMAGNETIC CHAOS

@halfheartedyoga: What registrar? By law, the registrant must be on the record - however, most registrars offer a 'private' option where they will conceal your info (it is still on record if requested via legal means, but does not show up on a WHOIS request.)

Talk with the customer service for the registrar; they may allow you to renew with private registration (you'll probably pay a fee, however.)

RNL
RNL

After heavy-duty lurking for ages, I had to register to comment on this post, because I simply cannot not tell this story to someone and it's midnight.
Went on 2 dates with a guy I met on the internet. Nice guy, funny, physically I'm into him, but both dates ended with... nothing. Previous google searching was futile.
Using my new Google fu, found his Google + site where he was chronicling our dates in perhaps the sweetest way possible, including talking about how, he was going to buy new clothes for our third date (which I graciously granted despite the anti-climactic endings). Ummmmmmmmm............ my robot heart has melted. I'm totally making out with him now.

timesnewroman

This is also useful for those with weak Google-fu: http://iwastesomuchtime.com/on/?i=20501

Fig. 1 (formerly myfanwy)

One of the best bits of advice I read on searching the Internet was to verse your query as an answer. Think Jeopardy!

Anji

Part of my (otherwise skull-crushingly boring) job is to keep up with social media related to my company, which includes not just updating and posting on my company's FB page, but also keeping tabs using RSS feeds and Twitter and whatnot. My Google-fu skills have sharply increased since my supervisor dumped this on me last May, I guess because I've had to try and figure out who some of these pseudonyms are so we can find customer accounts and actually try to help them. I'm always super proud of myself when I've been able to turn up a customer. And because everyone knows about my ninja skills, they give me that stuff to do instead of my usual boring crap.

Although I'm totally mortified by the thought that potential employers or girlfriends or whatever might Google me, because my name is A) highly unusual (I'm literally the only one in the country), B) the first result is a M*A*S*H fanfic I wrote when I was twelve, and C) the second result is an embarrassing group I started when I was in college and we were like the fifth one to have Facebook and it was meant to be a joke but it makes me look like a douche.

down the rabbit hole

oh my god I can't believe you just released the secrets. On the internet. Where anyone can see them!

pamela m

No. Ugh. The last thing we need is MORE people who do this kind of thing. Please, if you are thinking about stalking someone online, go do ANYTHING ELSE. Leave people alone.

Anyway, you either aren't going to find anything interesting or you are going to find something that you take out of context and then go EVEN MORE CRAZY over.

I'm not saying I've cut people out of my life solely because they engage in this kind of nonsense, but it's no coincidence that most of the people I have cut out of my life think that carrying on like this is actually ok.

keynesiancutie

OK, but seriously, Where can I get the fake garter nylons Rihanna had on?!!!!

Jane Marie

@keynesiancutie Top Shop!

EmmaJane

Seriously, did no one else end up looking at pictures of Art Noveau Rose Gold rings forever on Google images?

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