I will begin today by mentioning that the names used in today’s post are pseudonyms so as to protect the privacy of the acquaintances whose privacy has already been violated by Internet sources. I also credit my friend Tommy (his real name) in Louisiana for suggesting I post something about this topic.
A couple of Fridays ago, I reminisced about some of the young people I used to know during my childhood. Names began surfacing in my memory–names of classmates, friends, and bullies. I reflexively reached for my Samsung tablet to tap in some names on the Ecosia search engine (I try not to use Google.)
I began with names I remembered off the top of my head from junior high school–guys I haven’t heard from in decades. The first one was Bill. He was one of my close friends in our Lincoln, Nebraska neighborhood. We used to walk to school together nearly every day. I discovered that he is now a professor of European langages at the University of Texas in Austin. This was no surprise because Bill was multilingual already when I knew him.
I then tapped in the name of a pal who lived katycorner from our house. Jess is now an electrical contractor who lives and works out of Topeka, Kansas. Again, this is not surprising because Jess liked to disassemble things to find out how they work. He was also able to successfully reassemble those items.
My arch-nemesis was the major school bully, Rodney. He used to live two blocks away from my house on a different street. He enjoyed taunting Bill and me on our way to school. He was known by the school administration as a troublesome menace. Rodney had been officially reprimanded several times. A search on the “Whitepages” site revealed that Rodney is now serving a life sentence at the Indiana State Prison in Michigan City, Indiana. I refrained from further searches regarding his crimes and trials.
I’ll only mention a few people from my high school class. Naturally, I had to look up the name of my main high school crush–Max, my chemistry class lab partner. He is now a retired grocery store clerk who lives in far western Nebraska in Scottsbluff. Max also fronts a small rock band that plays cover versions of 1970s music. I should reconnect with him to catch up on each other’s lives.
Michelle was a casual acquaintance and ally. She was friendly but distant; and was a math nerd. Michelle is now a physician who practices at a family medical clinic in Council Bluffs, Iowa.
One other friendly high school acquaintance was Fritz. We sat next to each other in speech class and we also worked together on the high school yearbook staff. It turns out that Fritz worked as a manager at Kodak in Colorado until the company downsized its employees.
I looked up several other names out of curiosity. I have no desire to contact many of them. They played no meaningful roles in my past. One of the reasons for today’s post is to act as a reminder that our lives are no longer private. A casual search engine inquiry will reveal basic data about nearly everyone. There are other sites like “Whitepages” that will provide more in-depth information in exchange for a small fee. The fact that anybody anywhere can conduct personal searches is disconcerting, to say the least.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes novelist and writer, Joshua Cohen. “The birth of the search engine, it’s nothing new: it’s essentially embedded in our literature; it’s how ideas relate, how the mind makes connections. I mean, connections are made online through links, and within an algorithm, they’re made through degrees of relevancy between different terms.”