Friday, July 7, 2017

When Google Can't Find it For You

There have been some times in my life when I've felt horribly lonely. Admittedly, they've been few—and extreme. Like the endless months after my first husband died. And, early in my second marriage, the late nights of fresh motherhood, while my husband worked swing shift at a dangerous job that came with no promises. It was nights like these when I sat in front of my computer screen and wished the search bar could come up with an answer to my sorry query to "find someone who thinks just like me."

How do you create keywords for a yearning like that? "Genealogy" I could come up with. Or "motherhood." Even "thinking" could yield some interesting search results. But a search engine—at least, not yet—just doesn't have the oomph to put all those concepts together and ferret out the substance underlying the words.

It's not really Google's fault. Nor Yahoo!'s concern. Not Bing's, nor even the-more-the-merrier Dog Pile's. Long before any of these modern conveniences were household words, I had the same experiences with analog searches. When I was working on research papers for my master's program, back when a student had to meet with a research librarian for a chaperoned tour through the limited world of computer-accessed academic works, I rarely found what I wanted, simply relying on keyword searches.

What really did it for me was exploring those realms parked alongside the main topics I had researched. The next-to stuff. The fields ripe for bunny trails. Because my mind works in spiraling questions, just like that. A mind map sprouting corkscrews serves me much better than an outline form.

So when it comes to "researching" for like-minded people, how do you do it? If relying on keyword access via Google won't lead me to your doorstep, what will? Strangely, the answer seems vaguely like one of the very premises upon which Google, itself, operates: check out where the like-minded resources you find lead you. Did you find a book you love? Who does the author talk about in the pages of her text? If you consider that a "reference" to follow, and read that other book, where will that next one lead you to?

If this research method sounds vaguely like constructing daisy chains, don't think the results will be as ephemeral. Just as we can construct networks of the people we meet—one friend of yours introduced to another friend forming a useful alliance which then spins off other friendships—we can build networks of thoughts. Like-minded people can resonate with those similar thoughts, creating further synergy through additional connections.

This seemingly inefficient way of finding things that has, for years now, served me well is yet another backdrop to my seemingly shrieky reaction to the thought of the demise of the blogging world. Online publications—blogs in particular—remove the gate-keeping barriers to direct communication and let like-minded individuals talk together. Like-minded individuals, mind you, who might otherwise have never met in real life.

Never met, that is, except for one thing: they found a way, in the cyber-jungle of the Internet, to stumble across each other's path. Rarely has that beautiful thing happened, thanks solely to a keyword search on Google. More often than not, the connection evolved, thanks to something we call a hyperlink: you know, those blue, underlined words or phrases which, once clicked, lead the reader to a supporting website. A different example. A fresh world to explore. A new friend.

This clickable feast has not taken the world by storm. In our ad-laced world, some readers shy away from what could turn out to be clickbait, and for good reason. But from trusted sources, hyperlinking opens up a wonder-world of usable references in a step by step progression leading from what we know we love, to what we're sure to fall in love with, to what is a promising next step.

When I want to find someone who "thinks just like me," it's this step by step, trial and error, season of exploration that is my candidate for the most-likely-to-succeed route. That's why I'm thankful for bloggers—and the blogs they recommend. Whether we realize it or not, we're building community with each recommendation we post.

Above: "In the Orchard," 1891 oil on canvas by American Impressionist artist Edmund Tarbell; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. a mind that works in spiraling questions---an apt description for my brain. Now if I could only control it in the middle of the night.
    And now I'm wondering just how I found your blog. No doubt it was only a click away from wherever I was.

    1. Now, that's a good question--and it might have yielded a useful answer: how did you find your way to this blog? But no matter, Gayle, glad you are here!

  2. There is magic in reading. Years ago I was touched by the realization that a person far away in space and time (often dead) was sharing thoughts and feelings with me. Now the Internet has expanded those connection opportunities. I found your blog through a Best of list - probably Randy Seaver's Genea-Musings. Once again I am touched by a person far away in space - but close in time - thanks for sharing. You have a fan in Tempe, AZ.

    1. Janet, thanks so much for stopping by and mentioning that. This--your explanation about "magic in reading"--is exactly what I mean by wishing there was a way to search for people who "think like me." That awesome realization about reading hit me rather strongly a while back, too.

      Thankfully, if not via search engines, then through the reliability of word of mouth passed on by the never-ending chain of friends, we are able to transcend physical limitations and connect. That, too, is quite a thought.


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