ConText: Narcissurfing


Sounds like a vanity buzzword. Just as some people can't pass a mirror without checking how handsome they look, some internet users can't pass a Google page without putting their own name into the search box, and seeing what comes up.

Narcissurfing is basically googling yourself and finding out how the cyberworld sees you.

That's all very well if you're famous, but what if you're just an ordinary vain person?

In a world overrun by useless information, chances are increased that you will find yourself somewhere in cyberspace. The rise of social networking, blogging and people filming themselves doing stupid things means that Google is not just for celebs.

You'd have to be a complete nobody not to show up somewhere on a Google search - even if you have only one entry (known as a Googlewhack), it still means that someone, somewhere out there knows you exist.

So why bother looking yourself up on the internet?

Narcissurfers get the satisfaction of seeing their name up there in bright, hi-res pixels - the more hits they get, the bigger the ego boost. They'll be looking for blogs that sing their praises and compliment them on their good looks, sex appeal and exquisite taste.

And what are the chances of them finding such encomiums?

With today's intemperate blog traffic, the chances of finding praise are very faint. Most bloggers seem only interested in ranting about their pet hates and generally insulting everyone. So narcissurfers better have thick skins on their handsome visages, because they may not like what's been written.

Are you suggesting that if I put in Kevin Courtney + "wonderful", I might actually come up with zero results?

You'd probably have a better chance if you put "rubbish" or "lazy journalist" instead. Author Tim Dowling recently used this, er, conceit as the basis for his novel, The Giles Wareing Haters' Club. In it, a journalist googles himself, and is shocked to discover the existence of the eponymous club.

So, maybe it's like going back in time and meeting yourself - not a good idea.

Even worse, narcissurfers may punch in their name and get 50,000 hits - for someone else entirely. When you narcissurf, you'll invariably find numerous namesakes - solicitors, college professors, 19th-century merchant seamen. But one may turn out to be more successful, and admired than you'll ever be. If that happens, the only thing to do is change your name to Michael Jackson.

Try at work:

"Jenkins, I only have 20 hits on Google, and they all say I'm a pompous twit - can we fire them?"

Try at home:

"My husband's a bit peeved - he googled himself and found that video I took of him doing the David Brent dance from The Office."