Ride the ego: surf the net for you or your namesakes

(This is the Online column, written for The Southland Times)

Are you an ego surfer? An ego surfer, also known as a vanity surfer, is someone who, according to Wikipedia, searches the internet for their own name to see what, if any, articles appear about them.

There’s even a site dedicated to the pastime, although most ego surfers probably use Google.

When you surf the net, you leave a trail — every message board reply or guest book entry is essentially an online footprint.

If you’ve been online for any length of time, there’s a strong chance you’ll find yourself in the list of search results. However, there’s an equally strong chance you’ll find a namesake with a completely different life. That’s what makes the whole practice so interesting.

Strangely, when I search for my name, all but one of the results points to the real me. The other took me to the site of a 21-year-old Canadian chick who had Googled her own name and was perturbed to find that I had stolen her glory: “Her name graces each of the 10 search result pages my name brings up.” So, here’s a plug for Allie’s blog — why not pay a visit to www.tabulas.com/~vacant. Tell her I sent you.

On a more global level, Philipp Lenssen’s Prejudice Map offers descriptions of world citizens based on Google searches.Using search strings such as “Americans are known for” or “Germans are known for” , Mr Lenssen has pulled out descriptive phrases in the search results and tied them together for entries on the map.

New Zealand doesn’t feature but following his lead by searching on Google resulted in a range of positive things New Zealanders are known for, including our do-it-yourself attitude, hospitality, doing crazy things (bungy jumping) and colourful turns of phrase (that one was compliments of Sir Edmund Hillary for his “we knocked the bastard off” comment on the conquering of Mt Everest).

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