No one wants a Google search for their name to turn up a lot of negative information, but I am always curious when a search for someone shows up little information at all. Sure, it doesn’t surprise me if a search for my mother turns up limited information (though thanks to stories about my brother’s death, there’s actually some substance) but where you’re talking about someone who has presumably been online for the last decade or more, it can be surprising to see how little information Google brings up.
This makes me think about the way the internet has changed in the last twenty years. When the internet really became a ‘thing’ in the late 1990s, you created a web page as your presence there. It was probably at GeoCities or some other long-lost community. (It’s sad the way so much digital history has vanished as these sites were gradually shut down over.) Even with the rush by big companies to get online, it was still a rough democracy of content. There was an onus on you, as a user, to also be a creator. This continued, and grew, with the rise of blogs and Wikipedia. These days it seems like most people are online either only as consumers of information, or as producers in environments that are owned and controlled by others. We’re left as little more than the comment section of a corporate website.
This site isn’t permanent. It will only last as long as I continue to pay for hosting and, beyond that, in whatever bits the Wayback Machine finds interesting enough to archive. It’s also nearly invisible to the world (interestingly Bing ranks this page much higher than Google, yet here I am, a committed Google user). But it’s still a space that’s my creation (except the bits that aren’t, like the entire CMS that makes the site work), it’s still a chance to claim a space on what was supposed to be a platform for digital democracy. And to me, that’s important.