Googling old friends
June 24, 2004 11:43 AM   Subscribe

Googling old friends. Searching for old pals online can be emotional (not everyone joins Alumni or Friends Reunited) and it can lead to a re-assessment of your own life and were its going. Here, Pamela Ribon writes up her discoveries and it's one for few pieces I've seen which perfectly evokes the feelings which can develop. [As my source John says, make sure you read the comments as well.]
posted by feelinglistless (29 comments total)
Michelle says it so well:

"What makes me saddest about the whole looking-for-lost-friends thing, though, is the last-name issue. Sometimes it makes me want to go on a foaming rant about the casual and unthinking oppression of the patriarchy, but mostly it just makes me tired and sad that the way it is, the way it's always been, is that women lose more than their accustomed place in an alphabetical roll call when they get married and change their last names."
posted by mischief at 11:59 AM on June 24, 2004

You're right the comments are worth reading.

I've done the Google for old friends thing but I've either run up against the common name problem or just found nothing at all.
posted by tommasz at 12:09 PM on June 24, 2004

I found an old friend via Friendster recently, and apologized for never having given back all the Babysitters' Club books I'd borrowed from her little sister when I was in third grade.
posted by Asparagirl at 12:12 PM on June 24, 2004

What I did was set up a missing persons page [idea copied wholesale from waxy] so those who do ego searches find it. Works fairly well also for 3rd parties searching and then sending people my way. I agree with the last name issue, but I'm sure the "...but I can't find you in google" argument really works with many people.
posted by plemeljr at 12:23 PM on June 24, 2004

Searching for old pals online can be emotional (not everyone joins Alumni or Friends Reunited) and it can lead to a re-assessment of your own life and were its going.

That's the last thing some of us need. I googled a girl I had a crush on in high school and found out she's a published Ph. D. I did the same with my college girlfreind and found out she's some kinda hot shit reasarch professor, too and apparently a passionate Howard Dean supporter.

Maybe I should stick to searching Dept. Of Corrections databases, I'm bound to find some old freind there to make me feel better.
posted by jonmc at 12:24 PM on June 24, 2004

I've found one or two old friends but what I discovered after contacting them, after the initial "hey! Good to hear from you!" is that you soon find you have very little in common and there was a reason you drifted apart in the first place.

I still do it though, because it's a fun way to kill some time. I always find it odd when someone seems to have no internet presence whatsoever.
posted by bondcliff at 12:29 PM on June 24, 2004

I just found out the other day from an old friend who googled me recently that my name is the number one Google result out of 3.8 million. Surprising (to me) for a fairly common name (Alan Taylor). Even weirder, since I don't (and have never) printed my name on my website. It must be based on linkage alone. Not as much anonymity in common names anymore.
posted by kokogiak at 12:31 PM on June 24, 2004

All of my childhood friends grew up and failed.
posted by the fire you left me at 12:53 PM on June 24, 2004

I found my old friend Elizabeth, someone I hadn't seen since second grade, through Friendster. (Actually, I found someone named Katie who looked remarkably like Elizabeth's younger sister... when I searched for Katie's full name, the same girl came up so it turned out I was right.) Katie put her sister in touch with me, and I may have an opportunity to see her the next time I go up to NYC. She's married, just had a son.

Then I found another friend from the same class, Amanda, through Classmates. 20-odd years after the fact, I learned that I was her first crush. She wrote me to say that she screamed when she saw my name in her inbox, and she had to explain that to her husband.

And the exes, whooo. Google knows so much about them.

It's a bad idea to do this kind of stuff when you're single.
posted by emelenjr at 1:01 PM on June 24, 2004

Huh. Out of my five major exes, only two have an internet presence of any kind (and for one that's only because I actually made his site for him).

Perhaps those of use who conduct out lives in this online world tend to forget that there are a lot of people out there who don't even bother to use email (or can afford to). It's nice to imagine that the web is infinite, but I am beginning to think of it as a small world, really.
posted by jokeefe at 1:12 PM on June 24, 2004

i've been completely frustrated in trying to find old friends via the internet, but the fact is many people can't be found that way. maybe most people, i dunno, but certainly many more than one would suspect. i know in some cases it's due to women taking their husband's last names, something i cannot relate to and feel even more disgust over since it stymies my search efforts.

jonmc, wtf, your exes are no better than you because of this or that accomplishment. cut that shit out. uhm, unless you're just trying to be funny.
posted by t r a c y at 1:19 PM on June 24, 2004

jonmc, wtf, your exes are no better than you because of this or that accomplishment.

Oh, I know that. But we'd all be lying if we said that we don't feel a momentary twing of envy when we find out someone we used to know is doing better than us.
posted by jonmc at 1:29 PM on June 24, 2004

plemeljr and waxy: I do the same thing! After an ex found my site accidentally and contacted me, I figured it made sense to make it easier for people I want to hear from to find me. My Google-bait page has prompted e-mail from people all over, even one guy I knew from elementary school. It has also, as you mentioned, netted me mail from people looking for the people I knew. In many, many cases, my page is just about the only "Internet presence" some of these people have.
posted by pzarquon at 1:58 PM on June 24, 2004

I still do it though, because it's a fun way to kill some time

I read this as "because it's a fun way to kill them sometimes." (!!!)
Also, a surefire way have an internet presence it to use your name for your mefi login.
posted by bob sarabia at 2:08 PM on June 24, 2004

I've had monstrously bad luck Googling old friends. Which makes me wonder if Google hasn't taken up too much relevance me. If I Google someone and gets nothing it almost feels like they don't exist in my world. Very sad.
posted by y6y6y6 at 2:43 PM on June 24, 2004

I've googled a few old friends myself and although its mainly been a hopeless task, I did meet one girl who I hardly spoke to at school because of clicke issues and it turned out we had a bit in common -- and there was a definite sadness that we hadn't been closer at school -- that it might have helped us both survive that place. We've lost contact again now (she was married and in a whole other continent) but it was nice for both of us I think to have that brief bittersweet moment.
posted by feelinglistless at 3:00 PM on June 24, 2004

I hear ya.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 3:01 PM on June 24, 2004

And me (in case anyone wants to see anything I've been writing online... judging by that search I come off as an utter film geek)
posted by feelinglistless at 3:22 PM on June 24, 2004

I find some comfort in the anonymity of a common name, myself. Anyone who has known me well in the past would be able to find me but casual searchers would probably have some difficulty.
posted by dg at 4:06 PM on June 24, 2004

Assuming the person is likely to have stuck around, doing a google search of: "public records" "YOUR county" can bring up marriage, divorce, purchase and sale of property with either the given or married name.

There's always: "sex offender" "YOUR county", but that's probably only useful when deciding to purchase or rent a home.
posted by Feisty at 4:46 PM on June 24, 2004

Both my surname and firstname aren't particularly common, and the combination pretty much uniquely identifies me. This really *has* been nice that people I've lost touch with can easily find me if they know how to use a search engine.

However, once or twice I've been found by people I don't want to be found by, and worse, I've found that a unique name means that it's harder to escape from negative impressions by simply letting time pass.
posted by weston at 4:48 PM on June 24, 2004

although it's mainly been a hopeless task

Quite. It's not a good move if you have any issues with the past. I was ready not to hear from many people; I knew I wasn't liked at school and university. But I wasn't ready for the resentment - even brief rage - reactivated just on seeing the list of names. So I don't look for contact with anyone from way back. The few worthwhile reacquaintances have come of unexpected e-mails from people I scarcely knew then: one, as with feelinglistless, had some very reassuring comments about having felt the same about school life; another turned out have geeky interests in common.
posted by raygirvan at 4:57 PM on June 24, 2004

A guy I went to high school won an Emmy®. Actually, Googling around, it looks like he won a second one last year (last time I talked to him was, I'm pretty sure, before 2003).
posted by kindall at 5:16 PM on June 24, 2004

A semi-regular feature on one of my group blogs is pointing and laughing whenever someone from our residence shows up on the web in some funny place.
posted by Space Coyote at 7:09 PM on June 24, 2004

A guy I went to high school won an Emmy®.

cool ! a guy i went to high school with won an oscar®, and a friend won a tony award. i was busting out all over with the pride and the happy tears on those 2 occasions !

Oh, I know that.

good :-)
posted by t r a c y at 8:15 PM on June 24, 2004

Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little. -- Gore Vidal
posted by Opus Dark at 8:24 PM on June 24, 2004

the two people from my past i'm interested in finding out, i've not been able to find via the internet. i think that it's still more common than not to be invisible to google and the internet.

but i tend to agree that we fall out of touch with people for a reason--even if it's not a good one--and while i sometimes think i'd like to know, i'm often happier with the memory and the imagination.

as of last check (a few years ago, now), everyone in the US with my last name is related to me by birth or marriage. but, apparently, no-one is looking for me, as i haven't been found. . .
posted by crush-onastick at 11:06 AM on June 26, 2004

In my single days, some years ago, I looked up some names from my distant past. A girl I went around in the summer before my senior year had died in a car wreck with her sister in 1984--I found that at a genealogy site for tehir surname. Another old crush was listed in a cemetery register. Old crushes and ex-girlfriends. In memory yet green...
posted by y2karl at 7:44 PM on June 29, 2004

« Older Things that go squish in the night   |   Here comes the Judge Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments