Monday, June 05, 2006 ______________________________________________________________________________

Google Stalking 

I've been occupied lately with wanting to meet up with old friends. This is appropriate considering that I will shortly be in a position to meet up with everyone that I used to be the best of friends with. So I've started trying to find people. To locate them. People are elusive. For example, in the last five years (since I've moved to Canada) I have held six addresses, three cell phone numbers and three emails (two of which I still check). Having no evidence to the contrary, I can only assume that my friends are similarly mobile and that the contact information I have from what seems now like eons ago are dated, to say the least. So I turn to Google, which has never, ever failed me. There have been times where I've had a tune stuck in my head and a few well chosen phrases in the search box have led me to the song I was thinking of. Google is that good, or so I thought.

The first person I wanted to look up was one of my best friends at RGS. In the same class from sec 1 to sec 4, I gravitated toward her because I thought she was impossibly cool. I still don't know what attracted her to me. She's Thai, and after we graduated from RGS, I left for here and I assumed she left to return to Bangkok. I don't know. I wasn't listening carefully enough back then, obviously, because I cannot remember what she said about where she was going or what she was doing. If she mentioned it at all. (As a side note, it is so strange to be writing about someone you used to know so intimately as if she were a mere acquaintance, if not a downright stranger.) She has an unusual name though, and a quick googling of "Pailin Samritpricha" led me to a student website on Seattle University's student server. Her website had nothing but a picture on it, which was sufficient. Her name might be unique, but there could always be another Pailin S. out there. I've written several times to SU's Alumni Services, but they haven't replied. I think they think I'm a crazy stalker. Afterall, don't best friends from high school keep in touch? My story must sound so false. At any rate, there's a long shot, I've tried a potential email address and the good news is that the mail has not been bounced back to me.

To illustrate how important a photo on your website is, I present to you these two examples. When you Google "Johanna Tan" you get this website. While technically this person is Johanna Tan, it is immediately apparent that it is not the particular Johanna Tan you are looking for. There is also a Johanna Tan who is a 27 year-old freelance web-designer and insurance agent who buys a $3 Straits Times Charity bear in a newspaper article no longer accessible through the official Asia1 site, but which still can be viewed because Google so helpfully caches pages for internet stalkers (but this is not the second example, because the charitable Johanna Tan might be the same Johanna Tan in the picture in the website, I doubt it, however, because a freelance web-designer would not have such a sparse profile). There are countless other Johanna Tans out there in cyberspace that are not me from (quite a few) myspace users who write in Singlish, to one who writes about breeding birds in Sungei Buloh National Park. Also, there's a Johanna Tan listed in some kind of athletic league (if the Johanna Tan you know is me then you'd find this very, very funny. If not, what the hell are you doing on my blog? Oh wait, I apologize. I hate blog writers who disrespect their readers, even if their readers think they're someone else). The first "Johanna Tan" in the Google search results that actually turns out to be me has me listed with Eric on a paper presented at the Canadian Linguistics Association conference. You're not going to get much contact information from there though.

I digress. I should talk about the second example. This only shows up when you've given up on "Johanna Tan" and instead try Googling "Johanna Tan Si-en". The first search result looks promising! It's a faculty/staff listing for the UBC Arts Faculty - Linguistics Department even. So why the fuck does it list me as an Instructor in the School of Nursing with a contact number, email and office?! For some bizzare reason, I'm also blocked from editing my own damn profile. I don't know why this is a good second example for my point, actually. Because if I were able to upload a picture, but not edit the information, people will think I'm fucking training nurses. Nicole Bradner (the other undergrad TA) got an accurate listing. Noooo, this Johanna Tan Si-en has to be a bloody nursing instructor. Brilliant.

My excuse for the poor second example is that it's 3am and I am officially unable to form a coherent argument. I will, however, press bravely onward. Afterall, I haven't blogged for real in a long time (hiding behind birthday wishes and replacement memes, and interactive memes: updated for answers! and so on and so forth) so I must make up for it with a picture post (see previous post) and a rant (this post)!

So then I Google names of other friends I hope to meet on this two month holiday. No luck at all. Their names are even more common than mine. Google has a friend of mine listed as the contact for an IT course at the University of Sydney. Uhh, we haven't spoken in a while, but I seriously don't think that's her. In fact, I'm willing to put quite a large amount of money where my intuitions are on that count. Other friends don't even register a hit. So I'm reduced to sending emails to their last known email address. So far all of them have been returned. Either I don't remember the addresses properly or, like me, they've moved on to more professional email addresses. You can't exactly put schmiles84@hotmail on a resume.

I'm just hoping that the people I'm in contact with by virtue of discovering their blogs over the past years have better resources than me. There are alot of people I have lost touch with. If I had my way, I'll be in touch with them all by this fall.

posted by Joie! at 2:59 a.m.


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