I used to have a crrrrrrrazy self-googling problem. I’d literally google myself six times in an hour. I’m not nearly enough of a personage for that behavior to make sense. I get an interesting mention of myself maayyybe once every other day. The others are just chaff, mostly webpages where I’m mentioned in one of the tags or on the blogroll. I think the infrequency of the reward was exactly why I did it, though. If I’d never gotten anything, I would’ve given up. And if I’d always gotten something, I’d have gotten bored. The fact that something MIGHT happen was what made it exciting.
Adding to this is the fact that, for some reason, Google Alerts has been broken for years. This seems like a bizarre oversight on Google’s part. Google Alerts just doesn’t give you results very often and, when it does, they’re not very complete. Maybe Google just wants you to actually google things, rather than get the information delivered to you?
In any case, the breakdown of Alerts meant that the best way to find stuff about yourself was to search for yourself and then set the time throttle to “within the past 24 hours” (or I’d get flooded by stuff that was years old).
However, one day I came across a service that does pretty much exactly what Alerts used to do: mention.net. And I signed up for it, and now I get my mentions emailed to me in a daily digest. And I almost never Google myself anymore.
I wonder why? Probably it’s just because mention feels fairly complete, so I know that if something pops up, then I will see it. Thus, there’s no need to obsess about possibly missing something.
The other aspect of this is weirder, though: I never read my reviews anymore.
Back when I was googling all the time, I used to read every word that people wrote about me or my stories. Now, when the pages come to me with so much less effort, I hardly ever bother to click through. I just don’t care.
(There should be some kind of business school case study about this: businesses that destroy the psychological need for their own service by providing it too easily and efficiently. I imagine that all services which traffic in human anxiety could potentially face this problem. For instance, an address book that automatically harvested the contact info of everyone you interact with would, to some extent, make you forget that you had an address book and make you value it less [since the information would always be there when you need it, which is, frankly, not that often, usually). Whereas a more old-fashioned address book–where inputting data is more difficult–forces you to use it more often and trades on the anxiety of forgetting to record a contact and then not having them available when you need them)
This probably says something interesting about the human psyche: back when I was expending a lot of effort to collect these mentions, I’d feel compelled to actually look at them. Now that I’m not spending that effort, they hardly seem worth it. It’s the same with books. When I lived in CA, I’d get lots of books from the library. Oftentimes I didn’t read them. However, I tended to be much more likely to read books that I got through the interlibrary loan program (as opposed to the ones that the library just happened to have in their local collection). I think this is just because I valued the book more once I discovered that it was: a) scarce; and b) had to be shipped hundreds of miles at my request.