Dogs smell one another. Humans google. Neither method is foolproof. Knowing Skippy recently rolled in manure may tell you nothing about his predilection for toilet-slurping, while a googled revelation about a high school nickname may offer no hint as to a potential mate's dangerously low serotonin levels. But whether it's the primordial arena of canine interaction or the so-called modern age of high-speed communication, all species crave information about those around them. It's the methods that differ.
Thus we google. Of the dozens of promising search engines that emerged during the go-go '90s, only Google has survived with enough horsepower to have become a verb (and thus become lowercase in that usage). We don't "alta vista" things or "ask jeeves" anything -- we google. The search engine has become so ubiquitous, so much a part of our sensory landscape as to be almost a prosthesis. We google prospective mates, business partners and friends with the notion we'll find additional clues to who they are. Almost as revealing is the Google search that turns up nothing. Who is this person, we may well ask, who doesn't even show up on the Google radar? Can they be worth our time and affection?
In L.A., where I live, googling is supplemented by IMDB'ing someone. The Internet Movie Database is a critical tool to have at our disposal in a town where everyone from the guy who does your taxes to the woman serving your eggs has something to do with film or television. Here, when anyone mentions some involvement in either medium, we can hardly wait to IMDB them to find out what all they've been in. Regardless of whatever recent successes the hot director may be enjoying, there's no escaping that chronological record right there on IMDB.com. "Hey, look at this, honey. This guy directed the 17th Evil Dead spinoff before he got that NBC show!"
Returning to the dogs, we know that our canine friends, in the absence of others to sniff or lick, will turn on themselves. Googling is no different, and I'm sure many a shrink these days has to console the weeping client unable to find a googled reference to himself -- or who was scandalized by what he or she found. As an onanistic pursuit, self-googling is, for the non-celebrity, an exercise in futility and belittlement best left alone. I may dream of the day when a self-googling reveals as many references as it does now for the college football player and Australian author who share my name, but I believe I shall wait until that first novel sells before I try again. It's enough to tread water in the typical life of anonymity without having to be reminded of one's low profile on the world stage.
Then again, I understand I can start my own website for 7 or 8 bucks a month and create my own artificially augmented Google identity. Is that the same thing, or it that simply a scaled-down version of buying a car dealership and creating a local media identity with ads featuring myself? What would Warhol make of all this?
Googling, of course, can't reveal what our other senses tell us about an individual: the beady eyes, the bad cologne, the sagging nostrils that comprise the whole picture. But since we go through so many days never meeting our associates anyway, googling is certainly the next best thing. When the day comes when we're all hunkered in our homes eschewing human contact in a world gone mad, it may be all we've got.