Sometimes, my latent talents as a stalker worry me.
I was talking with a new friend about internet habits the other day and found myself explaining that one of my weaknesses is googling people I know / have known. She mentioned a friend of hers who said that he’d had a visit on his blog from someone who had searched for her name (because you can, of course, monitor that kind of thing now with software like sitemeter). I was fairly certain that hadn’t been me, but after the information I’d just divulged, I knew she must have been thinking that it could have been. Which left me feeling self-conscious and guilty despite my innocence in this particular instance and with the thought, God, people I’ve looked up might know that I’ve looked them up. Which, for some reason, terrifies me far more than being looked up myself.
When I was a teenager, I was obsessive about my crushes. There was one boy I fancied who I used to phone up with relative frequency; when he answered I’d ask for a friend and pretend to have got the wrong number. I guess I just liked the thrill of speaking to him. But I couldn’t leave it there: it wasn’t enough. Eventually I asked him, ‘did I accidentally call you last night?’ I said it had sounded like his voice (which was stupid because he didn’t really sound like himself on the phone). Did I want him to know? Or could I just not resist the temptation to find out more about him: how do you react when a girl you’ve no interest in is stalking you?
Over the years, my stalking habits have become less focussed on an individual. Any time I’m bored or (more likely) procrastinating, I dive into myspace or google and search for people I used to know. There’s no purpose to it: rarely is it useful to my writing and rarely does it rekindle an old friendship. All it does is satisfy my curiosity and my need to finish stories. It fuels my nostalgia, which is perhaps the main reason I do it. One of my favourite melodramatic pastimes (and don’t we all have them?) is to wallow in nostalgia.
Talking about this with my friend the other day, made me wonder what people think when they find this out about me. I assume it seems slightly sinister. Perhaps it is. And no doubt it sparks an element of ‘but what did she find?’ (the answer to which, more often than not, is ‘not a lot’).
Talking about it also made me aware of what people would find were they to google me. I do come up a fair bit when you search for my name but less than half of that is stuff I’d like people to find. But what I mind more than people I know finding it is knowing that people I know have found it.
Now, writing this, I feel a bit exposed. If you know me, it’s fairly safe to assume that at one time or another I’ve googled you. So why am I telling you? Perhaps I’m trying to absolve my guilt. Perhaps I am conceited enough to think that publicly dissecting the more dubious aspects of my personality gets me off the hook. Perhaps I want someone to tell me it’s fine, that everyone does it. Or perhaps I just want to tell you before you find out some other way and think badly of me.
One of the things I dislike about myself the most is my tendency to draw attention to things I dislike about myself.