An unexpectedly intriguing aspect of blogging is the opportunity to see how it all operates behind the scenes. With a click of your mouse on the button that says ‘My Dashboard’, you are privy to the deep, dark workings of the on-line machine. It is like being able to see the strings that hold up a puppet show, or visiting the Ghost Train ride when they’re doing maintenance. On offer are oodles of stats – visits per day, week, year, ever. You can see all the sites that are referring internet surfers to yours. But the real delight is being able to view what people around the world are typing into search engines to inadvertently find their way to you.
To get to my blog-shaped home, people have made the funniest searches, for example ‘In what year did Tony Abbott get merried?’ Yes, ‘merried’. Was an over-worked journalist writing a character sketch of the current leader of the Opposition but slipped a finger? Or maybe a cheeky internet sleuth was wondering about when this prominently fit Australian man last got himself inebriated on the sauce? The fact is we can only imagine the scenario, and there’s much joy in that.
Some searches are straight-out bizarre, for example ‘Every city has a sex quote’ (really? I’d not noticed), while others are just plain worrying, such as ‘Asian pop degrading nationalism’, which could end up as a PhD thesis for someone brave enough to give it a go. And ‘pretty brain’ – was that typed in by Hannibal Lecter? One of the more disquieting searches that have turned up on my site is ‘what women really should look like’. Frankly, if you need to ask Google that question you probably need more help than the internet.
But I’m being unnecessarily cruel. The most interesting search-engine references are the saddest. To reach my blog, people have done a search on ‘holding hands’ (did they need to know how to perform this particular action?), and the rather terrifying ‘last hours living’. But the one that stuck in my throat was this: ‘true love is not for me’. It’s rather final, isn’t it. Of course, these might be half-remembered song lyrics or lines of poetry or even titles of books, but what if they aren’t? What if someone really did want to know how to hold hands, or how to live the last hours of their life? What if someone really had decided that true love wasn’t for them, and they only wanted to let someone know?
Having shared this with you, I should admit these references wouldn’t be ending up at my blog if a search engine wasn’t linking it to something I’d written and posted – a battalion of Google-type technologies was matching my written words with someone’s desire for information, or answers, or the truth. So it could be just a case of my thoughts coming back to haunt me through the endless electronic fog that is the internet. Is it a cyber mirror to my life? Perhaps when posting on-line I am calling into the void, and days, weeks, months later, an echo finds me. Yes, perhaps. Though I should be very clear with you about something: I have never once wondered about the year that Tony Abbott got merried.
(First published in Panorama, The Canberra Times, 8 May 2010. The wonderful illustration by Michael Mucci originally appeared in conjunction with ‘Bloggers Unplugged’, first published in The Canberra Times on 10 April 2010 and can be found here; this article was then magically posted and can be found in this little e-loft.)