What Happens When You Google People You Used to Know

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

We’ve all done it.

Surely you have at some time.  Right?

I’m referring to typing your name into that Google (or Yahoo, or Bing) search window and striking — perhaps with some consternation — the Enter key.

Those of us who have a robust digital footprint (or in other words online googlegeeks like me who publish and post stuff regularly) probably aren’t too surprised by the results.  And, for the record, I do check on the number of visits to this blog, reply to comments on my Facebook page, post retweets and monitor replies to LinkedIn posts.

But have you ever googled the name of a person you used to know?  Someone you haven’t had any connection with for years?  For decades?

Call it time wasting, call it curiosity, but I did that the other day.

ISU LogoI googled the names of two people I knew during my undergraduate years at Illinois State University.  I’ll keep their full names confidential, but here’s what I found:

1. Central Illinois Farm Guy: This fellow, who resided on the same dormitory floor as I did my freshman year, hailed from a farming community farther downstate and spent weekends at home.  We might have talked over a beer a few times, but we weren’t all that close.  Something about my hair and Chicago accent that might have rubbed him the wrong way.

The Google findings: He’s still living in the same town and, you guessed it, he’s a farmer — apparently a prosperous and successful one.  An online report noted he “raises corn and soybeans using minimum and no-till practices on his family farm,” and he’s involved with the Illinois Soybean Association Marketing Committee.

2. Girl From the Newspaper Staff:  Writing for the ISU Daily Vidette newspaper was one highlight of my years in college.  I took notice of one female colleague for two reasons:  She was smart and a good writer, and she was pretty damn good looking.  We talked at times about campus news and made small talk, but never dated.

The Google findings: Well, Newspaper Girl earned a Master’s degree from ISU then catapulted to success in academia. She earned a doctorate, served in top administration positions at several universities and “has extensive experience as a senior-level academic administrator and a national reputation in the area of higher education leadership.”  She’s now president of a college in the southeast and a blogger!

Chances are, I’ll never meet Farm Guy or Newspaper Girl face to face. But I’d like to.  I’d share a beer with Farm Guy and learn the strategies and tactics used to market agriculture.  I’d ask Newspaper Girl what prompted her to pursue academia and perhaps share blogging strategies.

Different people, different lives, but some things in common with me.  Like Farm Guy, I didn’t stray too far from home.  And, like Newspaper Girl, I found a way to make a living manipulating words and ideas.

Technology has, indeed, changed our lives, in some cases for the better.  Without technology, I’d probably never know the direction the lives of two people I knew long ago had taken.

Now, I wonder if they ever googled me?


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