Thursday, January 5, 2012

Egosurfing (I Googled Myself!)

by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
I Googled myself recently out of curiosity, but I’m not alone according to Rachael Rettner of, who wrote an essay, “Most people Google themselves now,” which begins with this paragraph: “If you've Googled yourself recently, you're not alone. The majority of American adults, 57 percent, now keep tabs on their reputations online, using search engines to track information about their Internet identities, according to a report from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project [based on results from telephone interviews of 2,253 individuals in 2009], released today [May 26, 2010]. That's up from 47 percent in 2006" (Rettner, “Most people . . . ,” May 26, 2020).  So, I’m not alone; this is what I discovered.

I used quotation marks around my name, and there were 117,000 results (January 14, 2011), but in 26 pages, only 260 web sites were displayed.  That doesn’t mean I was disappointed, because Google told me that the remaining sites duplicated what was contained in those displayed, and I had already seen a great deal of duplication.  It took me several hours to wade through some of the sites, and in this essay I want to report my findings.

Perhaps the largest number of sites displayed were those that sold copies of my books.  Having written somewhere between 15 and 20, that isn’t surprising.  Many offered used copies of the various editions of my current college textbook, Communicating Effectively.  Once again, that isn’t surprising given the fact that it is in its tenth edition (March 18, 2011) and has been used extensively around the world.  (Communicating Effectively was written with Saundra Hybels who died in 1999.)
Speaking of “around the world,” I found it interesting that there were sites that had to be translated from Arabic, Chinese, Indonesian, Thai, Polish, and Spanish.  Some were quoting from my textbooks, using my textbooks in their footnotes and references, or citing me as a communication expert.  Some years ago my Communicating Effectively textbook was translated into Chinese, but that doesn’t necessarily explain all the foreign web sites mentioning my name or my books.  My textbook, Research in Speech Communication with Raymond Tucker and Cynthia Berryman-Fiink (Prentice-Hall, 1981) was mentioned frequently.
There were several web sites that occurred simply because of the use of my quotation, “One of the best things people can have up their sleeve is a funny bone.”  I found it in a number of places, but one of the most interesting was John Mark Ministries where they listed the quotation under the heading, “Quotes to Help With Sickness and Illness.”
Quite a few of the web sites displayed had copies of previous academic articles published during my professional career as a teacher.  For example, “Ten Specific Techniques for Developing Humor in the Classroom,” (Winter, 1987, Education, 108, No. 2, pp. 167-179) was mentioned several times.  “Faculty Dynamation: Guided Empowerment” (Spring/Summer, 1990, Innovative Higher Education 14, No. 2 with co-authors Darrell G. Mullins, Howard W. Cottrell, and Thomas A. Michel) was mentioned several times as well
My YouTube videos appear on a wide variety of web sites.  At the ChaCha web site, the “Stand Up, Speak Well” video appears, and at the “Types of Research Evidence,” my video titled “The Curse of Knowledge” is front and center.
When you write as much and as widely as I have, the chances for misquotations and distortions becomes greater than those who do not.  At Puritan Daily Life, those who write for the site went almost as far as they could go (in distorting the information) when they stated: “The aboriginal branch of the essay, ‘Self-discipline can change your life in any way you appetite [sic] it to,’ reads as follows: During my aboriginal years, I heard from my parents bout [sic] the Puritan assignment [sic] ethic, but every time I heard the byword [sic] it was affiliated with alive [sic] heard.  Never did I apperceive [sic] that it was Biblically based . . . .” And, my name was assigned to the quotation.  Can you figure it out?  I could not.  I hope it’s never cited as an example of my best work!
Thomas Walton’s The (Toledo) Blade’s January 3, 2011, p. A-7, op-ed column titled, “‘It was a dark and stormy night’ . . . or not,” which printed readers responses to a request Walton made on December 6, 2010, in a column titled, “In search of the Great Opening Paragraph.”  Walton wrote readers: “Send me your best opening paragraph for the novel that’s been kicking around in your head.”  I wrote, “Her scent lingered momentarily, then dispersed as if a light breeze had massaged the fibers of my soul.  When fully recovered I became alive and aware, then conscious of my past.  With that mindful insight I realized I was not to have her, and I was surprisingly at peace.”  What surprised me was that on January 14, 2011, just 11 days later, the quotation (and Walton’s op-ed column) appeared on a Chinese web site
On the web site “Frankly Speaking," for Thursday, August 23, 2007, Frank Bellizzi, a college teacher and campus minister, used six paragraphs of my speech, “Sticky Ideas,” that highlighted and discussed “The Curse of Knowledge” (August, 2007, “Sticky Ideas,” Vital Speeches of the Day, p. 354), to stimulate a discussion on his web site.  I never received a request to use the material nor gave permission.  He thoroughly credited the source (me! —as well as the authors I cited), but normal ethical behavior would have suggested a request was in order.
One of the surprises (although it shouldn’t have been a surprise had I simply thought more about it!), was the large number of publishers and authors who used my reviews of their books to advertise and sell their books on the Internet.  Many of the web sites displayed offered my reviews.  Once again, having posted well over a hundred reviews on, this would be an expected outcome, and I am delighted that so many have found my reviews well-written, concise, and flattering enough to reprint them in other contexts.  Thank you.

Source/footnote: Rettner, Rachael. (May 26, 2010). “Most people Google themselves now.”  LiveScience. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
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At, their brief explanation of “Egosurfing” and the various other terms for it is delightful: “Egosurfing (usually referred to as Googling yourself and sometimes called vanity searching, egosearching, egogoogling, autogoogling, self-googling, master-googling) is the practice of searching for one's own given name, surname, full name, pseudonym, or screen name on a popular search engine, to see what results appear.”

At the BrownNoser web site, Eric Johnson writes the following two paragraphs to open his article, “Catholic Church Condems Googling Yourself As a Sin”: “Some people do it every now and then. Some do it multiple times a day. Some are simply addicted. But regardless of how often you do it, the Catholic church wants you to stop it.
“Googling yourself, a longstanding pastime since Google's launch in 1998, is just as wrong in the Catholics' eyes as murder, adultery and wearing non-silly hats, according to Pope Benedict XVI. Speaking from his balcony in Vatican City, the Pope said Googling is a strong contributor to society's moral decay.”
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Copyright January, 2012, by And Then Some Publishing, L.L.C.

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