The quick headline of a Pew Internet and American Life Project study released Sunday afternoon is close to half (47 percent) of people have googled themselves, up from just over one in five (22 percent) in a similar study five years ago.
But the real news in the study, “Digital Footprints Online identity management and search in the age of transparency,” is that people aren’t that worked up about privacy.
There’s been a shift. And for younger people, as you might expect, it’s happening at faster rate.
I can remember people freaking out over a land transfer or divorces granted listing being put online, but it was OK to put it in the paper. Huh? The local audiences of the two weren’t even close and it’s OK to be in the bigger one, but not the smaller?
Sixty percent today say they’re not losing sleep over it.
And when you slice it into subgroups, the one the Pew researchers call the “The Unfazed and Inactive” group is neither worried about their personal information online nor taken steps to limit the amount of information that can be found out about them online. Those people are in the largest grouping at 43 percent.
The study offers that privacy. or the expectation of privacy, is a casualty of 9/11. But that doesn’t begin to explain how much information people are willing to post about themselves and the comfort people have with online transparency and presence.
How it will evolve is anybody’s guess. That crazy thing you did in college or even high school that got posted might be given more latitude in the future as people get used to finding such things. Or people might get more demanding of their ability to control what’s known about them.
One thing for sure, these footprints in the sand aren’t washed away by the tide.
As for googling oneself; I’d call that prudent rather than self-obsessed. It’s a good idea ot be aware of what’s out there about you, I think.
(Photo by Melanie Ehrenreich)