When people say nice things about me on the internet

02-Mention-Logo-v1-300x245I 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.

Oh, and this post was inspired by a very kind mention of me by my good friend (and former date to senior prom!) Maura Pennington. 

4 thoughts on “When people say nice things about me on the internet

  1. Becca

    Or maybe just because you’d have to pay significantly more fines if you forgot to return it to the library…

  2. GuessHandsOn

    Ah… Thanks for discovering TEH WUNDERBARE JOYS of TEH KOGNITIF DIZZONANZ:

    “In Festinger and Carlsmith’s classic 1959 experiment, students were asked to spend an hour on boring and tedious tasks (e.g., turning pegs a quarter turn, over and over again). The tasks were designed to generate a strong, negative attitude. Once the subjects had done this, the experimenters asked some of them to do a simple favour. They were asked to talk to another subject (actually an actor) and persuade the impostor that the tasks were interesting and engaging. Some participants were paid $20 (equivalent to $160 in present day terms[9]) for this favour, another group was paid $1 (equivalent to $8 in present day terms[9]), and a control group was not asked to perform the favour.

    After someone has performed dissonant behavior, they may find external consonant elements. A snake oil salesman may find a justification for promoting falsehoods (e.g. large personal gain), but may otherwise need to change his views about the falsehoods themselves.
    When asked to rate the boring tasks at the conclusion of the study (not in the presence of the other “subject”), those in the $1 group rated them more positively than those in the $20 and control groups. This was explained by Festinger and Carlsmith as evidence for cognitive dissonance. The researchers theorized that people experienced dissonance between the conflicting cognitions, “I told someone that the task was interesting”, and “I actually found it boring.” When paid only $1, students were forced to internalize the attitude they were induced to express, because they had no other justification. Those in the $20 condition, however, had an obvious external justification for their behaviour, and thus experienced less dissonance.[10]”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_dissonance

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Oh, that’s interesting. Yes, the book I was just reading (Influence, by Robert Cialdini) had a bit about this–how people have a need to feel like they’re being consistent in their actions, so that they’ll alter their internal narrative to bring their mindsets more in line with their external actions.

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