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July 30, 2008

Go ahead, gogle me

If someone's life is not worth at least one page of Google search results, does that mean he hasn't accomplished or written anything of enough import to be broadcast online?

http://www.jewishjournal.com/singles/article/go_ahead_gogle_me_20080729

I'd like to introduce a new verb to the dating lexicon: "Gogle," a combination of the words Google and "ogle."

One online dictionary defines "oglers" as those who ". . . look at especially with greedy or interested attention."

"Gogle" means to look up a person you want to date with greedy or interested attention using the popular search engine, Google.

I have been guilty of gogling, along with millions of other singles. Whenever I meet a guy, I always try to request a business card so I can get his last name. If I meet a guy online, I deduce his last name from his e-mail address. Then I punch it in Google to find out: Where does he work? What is his background? Has he published anything?

Unless the guy is a fellow writer or journalist, or unless he is semifamous, the search queries usually don't turn up results. At best, his name might be listed in a company Web site profile or some college club he belonged to years ago.

If someone's life is not worth at least one page of Google search results, does that mean he hasn't accomplished or written anything of enough import to be broadcast online? Does he lack ambition, achievement or creative output?

Then again, sometimes I'm relieved when the prospective date doesn't show up on Google. I cannot develop any preconceived notions about the man, and I begin from scratch in getting to know him. Google search results don't really reveal anything about a man's character -- and my deeper self cautions me against judging a man based on his outward accomplishments alone.

And what about men who gogle me? They come up with all kinds of good stuff -- much of it information I don't necessarily want them to know before they get to know me personally. I guess this is occupational hazard for someone who writes this kind of column.

A cursory reading of Google headlines that come up under my name might lead guys to conclude the following: I am a right-wing fanatical Zionist, I'm tired of Israeli men and I have 10 rules for men who date me. In part, I have a blogger to thank for this -- his colorful commentary and reposts of my most recent single columns always get ranked high, a fact of which he is proud.

Some search results seem completely random. For example, in my most recent top Google five, I appear as a writer for a neo-Zionist site that published my politically oriented blogs only three times, despite the fact that I haven't written for them in about a year.

I spoke with a Google spokesman about how the rankings work and to see if there is any way to control them. Google, as it turns out, is a cold, heartless machine.

"Google uses more than 200 different signals to determine relevancy and ranking of search results," I was told. "These include number of links, authority of a page [for example number of links posting to a page], the number of times key word appears on Web site."

The spokesperson asked not to be named; he probably didn't want to risk being gogled. But I did (revenge!) -- from what I gather he's a nice Jewish boy from California.

Google, apparently, doesn't care whose dating life it hurts.

"It's completely algorithmic. There is no human control on this so we don't have people deciding which Web site appears where," he said.

To influence the information that comes up on a Google search, he suggested I add more content that will be indexed by Google or, alternatively, contact the Web site posting information about me.

Fortunately, my own personal Web site still gets ranked No. 1 -- but what about the others that gossip about me or reprint my outdated thoughts?

Google makes some exceptions (so you know there is some human control). If a Web site publishes personally identifiable information about someone (such as a credit card or Social Security number), it will remove that page.

I guess whatever singles column or article I willingly post online is fair game. My articles, singles columns in particular, run the risk of being immortalized on the Internet.

This leads me to wonder if single men and women should come up with Google etiquette standards. Should we tell our date in advance that we have gogled him or her? Sometimes I feel like telling a date: "OK, tell me what you already know about me, and let's go from there."

Is it better to admit we've researched one another, or to pretend we haven't? Or maybe we should implement a rule that says: Daters shall not gogle a prospective date to preserve a sense of mystery and privacy.

I don't see that happening. Gogle has become just another form of ogling. It's just way too tempting.


Orit Arfa is a Jewish Journal contributing writer based in Israel who is spending the summer in Los Angeles. She can be reached via her Web site: www.oritarfa.net.

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