Some months ago I wrote about the practice some people have of Googling themselves. For those six people left in the country who’ve never heard of it, Google is a search engine, which doesn’t actually have an engine but does search around the internet for anything you’re looking for: facts, figures, instructions, recipes, and lots and lots of dirty pictures. (It’s not Google’s fault – it’s just the messenger, which can be filtered.)
Googling yourself is an entire subculture. I couldn’t remember the term for it, so I -- ahem – Googled it. It’s sometimes called vanity searching or autogoogling, but the accepted term is Egosurfing, which explains it pretty well.
Only in my case it was more like Ego-sinking; turns out there are lots of Mark Hunters in the world, but none of them is me.
Ah, but as time went by I’ve increased my footprint on the web, adding a Facebook page, commenting, generally making a nuisance of myself, so I decided to try something new. I signed myself up on Google Alerts, in which Google – well, alerts you, pretty much to anything you want it to. I set the alert for three terms: “Mark Hunter”, ‘cause that’s my name; “Ozma914”, ‘cause that’s my screen name in most internet places where I’m to be found; and “Slightly Off the Mark”, because my column ends up on the net from time to time, and who knows when some famous national columnist might want to steal from little old me?
And then I waited for the ego boosting to start.
It wasn’t long at all – in fact, it was a matter of hours – before I got my first alert:
“Flickr: Photos and Video from ozma914.” Yay, it was me. I double checked, and it really is me.
Only I don’t have a Flickr photo account.
Well, I do now. I just don’t know where it came from.
I dropped that mystery when I got my next Google alert: “Mark Hunter”! Eagerly, anxious for some true ego stroking, I opened the e-mail.
“In a view backed up by fellow Lib Dem Mark Hunter, who lives jut the other side of Parliament in Westminster …”
“He won a gold medal in the men’s lightweight double sculls with Mark Hunter …”
“In-form Mark Hunter made a quick 43 before being out to a superb catch on the boundary.”
“Mark Hunter aka The Cobrasnake.”
No, I do not go by “Cobrasnake”, just to make that clear.
It was more of the same after that. I was chief executive of Molson Coors, I was a nationally recognized expert in sales motivation and training, and I even found a picture of myself as general manager of a college sports team in the London area. The real me has more hair than that. Well, a little.
Mark Hunter is also a photographer, something I’d much rather be than a member of Parliament, and after some digging I realized that photographer is Cobrasnake.
Just so I don’t get too full of myself, I was also a carjacking suspect and the subject of a Vermont police pursuit.
Then, finally, blissfully – Mark Hunter, Writer:
“1976 and What Happened Next, by Mark Hunter.” Sounds interesting. Sounds like something I didn’t write.
Do you realize what this means? It means that when I get published, I won’t be able to use my own name! I’ll have to be at least Mark R. Hunter, or M. Richard Hunter, or maybe change my name completely. I’ve always liked “Stephen King”.
I can’t believe some punk in East Sussex stole my writer’s name.
Yeah, yeah, so I’m a deputy Sheriff, a musician, and an Olympic athlete, but I already knew about those; if I wanted to live those lives vicariously I’d stare out the window and daydream. Well, I do stare out the window and daydream, but you see my point. Then came the addition of insult to injury, in the most recent alert:
“Mark Hunter e companhia sempre disseram que os Chimaira pertencem ao grupo do verdadeiro metal, de bandas como Slayer …”
Now I not only don’t know who I am, I don’t know what language I speak!
Not to worry, though. I mean, sure, there are lots of Mark Hunters – but how likely is it that the title “Slightly Off the Mark” would be floating around out there?
Very likely, because it’s not just a title – it’s a phrase. For instance:
“I have never seen a garment even slightly off the mark grace the pages of their site.”
Or, “To say it's revolting would be slightly off the mark” I’m not so sure I agree with that.
Ah, but all was not lost, because I still had the “ozma914” alerts to look at. I know for sure that there aren’t any other of those out there!
Sure enough, “Pictures by Ozma914 on Photobucket”. Me!
“Ozma914 – Profile” My profile!
I have to be honest with you: It was kind of anticlimactic.
I mean, who was I competing with? Who else on the net combined their firefighter identification number with the name of a female character from a children’s book series? Of course Google hit on me -- there was no one else for it to hit on. The whole experience was an exercise in frustration. Frankly, you shouldn’t Google yourself unless you’re already a celebrity, or have a very unusual name, like Englebert Humperdink.
Then, the next day, another alert popped up. Not expecting anything, I opened it to find:
“SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK It turns out being a parade grand marshal is kinda neat. by Mark Hunter.”
Hey – it was me. It was really me! Okay, it was an archived copy of my column from my own newspaper, but still – a person has to take his little victories where he can find them.
I think maybe I’m going to forget the whole thing until I’ve done something really noteworthy, like get elected to parliament, or become Cobrasnake, or get into a high speed pursuit. Having a novel published will suffice.
Until then, if you should happen to Google me, I’ll be that other guy. I wonder if he’s missing a Flickr account?