Does Google Make You Real?

I grew up in a time just prior to the Internet explosion.
If you needed to gather information, you relied upon the library, encyclopedias, and microfiche.  I was taught the Dewey Decimal System and how to use a card catalog.

Now we just Google our questions. It’s remarkable what you can find on the Internet. The most obscure information is at your fingertips. We can even Google ourselves.

There is nothing that you can’t find if you search for it.

Or so I thought.

The other night, in a moment of sadness, I Googled my father.

I typed his name in and hit enter.

I put his name in quotations and hit enter.

There was no mention of his murder.
There was no record of those he left behind.
There was no mention of  his parents’ tears, their baby boy taken from them.
There was no mention of his siblings, devastated by their loss.
There was no mention of his widow, left to raise her two-year old daughter alone.
There was mo mention of me, a fatherless child.

I spent a day when I was a young adult, reading everything I could dig up about him at the local library and newspaper.

He was real and he did exist. The articles told in great detail the story of his murder and the heartbreak of the family left behind in its wake.

I know the story.

Why does it bother me that I can’t Google him? Why do I want so badly to read it all again, whenever I need to remind myself?

Why would it make him seem more real if I could see his name returned by an Internet search?


  1. Tiffany

    I am certain that most great people are nameless to Google. And perhaps, it's better that way?

    I cannot imagine your pain, but maybe having it at your fingertips isn't for the best?


  2. KLZ

    Oh that sucks! I guess it would FEEL like he's been forgotten by everyone but you if he's not on Google. But you remember and we will too.

  3. Megan (Best of Fates

    Even as someone who grew up as the Internet was becomin' a big boy, I've had many years where googling my name resulted in nothing. So I think that's only a future person's dilemma. And by then, some enterprising young buck will've spent his summer vacation scanning all old newspapers and putting them online, hence introducing your dad to the technological world.

    Okay, that comment got kinda weird. But I know what you mean – and after this post, your dad is on the internet and in our thoughts.

  4. Natalie

    I understand what you mean. That must be hard. But he lives on in you, your family, and anybody else that knew him and loved him. Not that that helps with the Google situation, and I know you already knew that….

  5. Oh google…what a web you weave…or don't weave. That is really strange that you can go to the library and find all you want, but not the web. I bet if you searched the library for something current, you will come up with nothing.

    And on another note, it would make me sad too. Such a tramatic and public thing and you would think it would be on the interweb somewhere.

    And this got me thinking…I should google my deadbeat and see if I can track him down and get some money from him.

  6. Adrienne

    I hear you. After my friend Tracey was murdered, she was on every news blog, every domestic violence site, dozens of personal blogs, and I don't even remember what else. Now, if I Google her name, I get two results.

    It's strange, how we've come to rely on something so new to validate reality for us, but we have. The internet was an infant when I was a young adult and I didn't have internet access at home till I was 24 (and that was before most people had it; perks of being an engineer's daughter), but still it's a huge part of what I think of as important.

    Ultimately, though, it's not real. Your dad existed; he mattered. He was important. His life can never be erased because of you, your mom, Katie and Matthew, and the children and grandchildren they will have someday. He was here whether Google knows it or not.

  7. CDG

    My grandmother was murdered two years before I was born, and I've Googled her as well, for nothing. I've never been brave enough to look up the details in the library (even though I, too, can use the Dewey), because it's still a very raw, painful topic for my mother's family.

    I sometimes wonder about the validity of non-Googleable things, too.

    They are still real. The ones we lost, and the ones left behind.

  8. Nichole

    Perhaps, in a way you're right.
    It's just the old "if a tree falls in the woods…" thing.
    The Internet has encouraged the immediate gratification part of my personality.
    Thanks for stopping by, and thank you for the comment!

  9. Nichole

    When I Google myself, you know what I get? A bunch of rate-my-professor ratings, which make me happy, and some entries about scholarships I was awarded. All happy stuff.

  10. Nichole

    What a boring summer that will be, huh? Poor guy. :)
    Maybe some summer, I'll go home and do it myself.

  11. Nichole

    You're right. I was just feeling kind of philosophical when I really thought about it.
    We can find just about anything online that it surprises me that there are things that just aren't available.
    And yes, he lives on in me. I'm told I have his charm. ;)

  12. Nichole

    That's such a great point about the way that information gathering has changed so much.
    Now, I read all of my news online, not in the paper.
    If I want a phone number, I look it up online. I don't even have a phone book.
    And when I go to the library, the magazines are all old.
    I'll be curious to see how your deadbeat hunting goes. ;)

  13. Nichole

    When I was a professor, one of the most important things that I worked on with my students was the importance of being a critical thinker. Whenever they tried to site an unreliable source like Wikipedia in a paper, I knocked off three letter grades. I encouraged them to seek out trustworthy sources and question everything they read.

    We live in a time of information overload. There are days when I go to bed at night and I'm unsure where or when I read something. But the one thing that I'd love to find, isn't there. How's that for irony?

    And I almost think that it would have been worse if information on my dad had been available, but then just wasn't. That would have felt like he had somehow been erased, rather than having never existed in the first place.

    And yes, he mattered. Thank you for that.

  14. Lori

    I Googled my dad too once, as his death made a fair amount of local news, and….nothing.

    OK…so, I just thought to check again, as I had not for some years. He's on one website that oddly thinks he's still alive, as it lists his age as 65 and he died when he was 53.

    It's strange how we feel almost transparent if there's nothing in this exhaustive database.

    And I understand.

  15. Nichole

    It isn't an easy subject for my family either, but my mother has always been completely honest with me about the details surrounding his murder and was supportive of my need to read the details.
    My grandparents, however, probably wouldn't have understood why I needed that, so I kept it to myself.
    Grief and loss are funny things, aren't they? I've always believed that things are easier to comprehend and make peace with when you have all of the information.

    Reading the newspaper articles was interesting…the stories that I had heard had been based in emotion. The newspaper articles were far more black and white. It was an interesting contrast and by putting them together, I feel that I was able to build a whole.

    And yes, all real.
    Thank you for your words…

  16. Nichole

    The strangest thing is that his death truly defined a huge part of my existence growing up. I was that girl whose father had been murdered. In a small town, this elicited more fear than compassion. I remember feeling like I had the plague. There wasn't anyone who didn't know the story.

    So now, when I Google and find nothing, it is made even more strange by the lack of information–truly one extreme to the other.

    I always told my students that reading something online doesn't make it accurate or real. Your dad's information is a perfect illustration of that.

  17. liz

    I can understand why you would expect and feel it's only right for there to be information on him on Google. Would there be some reason the story about him would not be?

  18. kris

    Am I all left behind and stupid?

    I never Google anyone.

    It would never occur to me to Google family members. And the family members who have been important or newsworthy or loved? They are in my heart and in my mind and in my life (whether or not they are still alive).

    What happens if I Google me?

    Now I'm all freaked out.

  19. I went through a kick one summer where I was all kinds of interested in ancestry. We have some interesting things that nobody talks much about in our family, so I got obsessed with genetics and ancestry. Googling gave me NOTHING! I went on and got LOADS of info about all my family…they have access to libraries and records and such. Some of the info I had to pay for, but it's out there.

    The important thing…which many have said here…is that these people (your dad too) DID exist and they mattered to lots and lots of people. The information that is not "out there" is in the hearts of those who knew them and is MUCH more valuable!

  20. Cheryl @ Mommypants

    I'm all over Google. Although not as much as I used to be.

    So interesting that your father didn't show up. Not that you need it to validate his existence.

    But I get it. I do.

  21. bywordofmouth

    What sadness, so young to have lost so much …
    Why is it we want answers and info on anything and everything, instant gratification, its the age of information, and we seem to have it at our fingertips. I Googled my youngest's birthmother and eventually found her and some of her family … then it occurred to me that she could do the same thing and every time I saw a young woman who resembled her looking across at my princess, I pulled her in a little closer …
    Thank you for your year in review – I so look forward to meeting you in person at Blogher, feel like I just want to give you a big hug :)

  22. Tonya

    I know exactly how you feel… both of my parents' names come up but only because they are very very common names. I think if they came up with a description underneath that I could relate to, it would both shock and scare me.

    When I want to go there. When I want to remember, I have a leather box full of special photos that were shown at their memorial service, copies of their obituaries and other documents that prove they lived and died.

    Sending hugs to you. xoxo

  23. I'm so sorry about your dad. My best memories are with my dad, and he's my best friend. It pains me that your dad was taken from you. I hope you know that you have a special angel in heaven, watching over you always.

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