Jewish World Review Jan. 12, 2005 / 2 Shevat 5765

Felice Cohen

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Consumer Reports

Are you Google-worthy? | "I Googled you," my Uncle Mark said to me. "There were lots of results. Then I Googled my brother and there were even more. Then I Googled myself and there were none." I looked up. "So you're not Google-worthy," I told him, "It doesn't matter." But for many people, it does.

In this era of bloggers and reality TV with everyone clamoring for their 15 minutes of fame, Google (which on its own site nets 146,000,000 results) is a huge supplies of egos. Whether you once wrote a letter to the editor or came in first place in your high school debate state championship, chances are there are results to be found about you.

Google was created six years ago in an old garage on a ping pong table. Who would have thought it would become more than a search engine, but a way for people to measure their self worth?

In school it was easy to tell if you were popular. You usually got the most Valentine's Day cards. Today, your popularity can be measured based on how you rank on Google.

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Google, for those of you who have been living under a rock, is the fastest and most efficient way to find information on the Internet. With its ability to search in dozens of languages and countries, Google is everywhere. Even right here on Broadway (18,800,000 results). On the Great White Way, Playbills not only list the casts' bios, but some include their personal websites, picked up, of course, by Google. And not to be outdone, off-Broadway was recently host to a one-man show called "Googlewhack" (52,200 results), spawned from a game played on Google's website.

On another celebrity stage, professional athletes can determine their popularity through Googling. Kobe Bryant (1,480,000 results), who's in his playing prime, has not only seen his jersey recently drop out of the top 50 in sales, but his "Google worth" is a lot less than Michael Jordan's (2,200,200 results), whose hey day is long over. I wouldn't be surprised if sports agents use their clients' "Google worth" to negotiate salaries, since the most popular players fill the stands.

However, the more we Google, the more careful we need to be. As employers Google potential hires and singles Google the dating pool, just a few clicks can net not only positive results, but outdated and simply untrue information. Just ask Dan Rather.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt admits that Google's search engines cannot decipher between fact and fiction since they have "not yet understood how to make value and moral judgments about information." Until then, Google cautiously.

Comedienne Lily Tomlin (208,000 results) created a character in the early '70s named Edith Ann (12,300 results), a little girl who had observations about life that still ring true today. If she were around now, this is what she'd say to Uncle Mark. "Sometimes when I feel no one cares, I go to Sears and tell them I'm lost. They repeat my name over and over on the loud speaker. We all need to matter. I matter to Sears."

For everyone else, there's Google.

Comment on JWR contributor Felice Cohen's column by clicking here.


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© 2004, Felice Cohen