Thursday, May 04, 2006

Let me save you some time

Via Amitava Kumar, I came across this New Yorker article from last year, telling the story of how a humble digital video tech website became a makeshift counseling service for the desperate and depressed. Perhaps you've read it. On the website's message boards, one forlorn user started a discussion thread entitled "I am so lonely will anyone speak to me." Somehow, this discussion forum became the #1 Google hit for "I am lonely."

And the thread continues to this very day, with lonely people and ex-lonely people confessing and counseling and commiserating. This is somewhat cheering, and evokes the good old days of the internet when idiosyncrasy, happenstance, and whim ruled in the anarchic digital frontier, and blah blah blah look at me I'm such a d-bag. Or something like that. People tell me this is the way it was. I was busy with a certain zeppelin venture when the internet Revolutionized The Way We Live.

I find the notion of Google as confessional fascinating, and surely the topic is ripe for someone to write a long, wearying essay on the implications of such a phenomenon. Anyway, in case others of you are tempted to use Google as a means of venting or lamenting, I thought I'd save you some time and describe the #1 hits for various likely phrases. Onward!

  • "Help me": Help me, Harlan! Advice column for teens. Features photo of "irreverent" Harlan with hand thoughtfully on chin. Just barely beats out the Scientology site.
  • "I have hit bottom": The depressing story of someone trying to quit Effexor, on
  • "There is no God": Penn Jillette on NPR. Ponytail, rampant secular humanism. Enough said.
  • "I wish I hadn't done that": An ESL forum dissecting my own personal favorite phrase. Actually, this is also useful for native English speakers who are looking for new ways to express that familiar sentiment.
  • "I just killed a man": Someone's story of how buying a Powerbook contributed to the heroin-related death of some other guy. Whatever.
  • "corn chips and pie": A 1995 article from the Vegetarian Times on how to... hey, wait. Fuck you, Google. Their ranking algorithms are terrible. I hate this game.