Google is a shady friend

If you Google my mother’s name, you will discover that she died seven years ago, the victim of a horrifying crime.

I know this because my mother, the vibrant and very much alive Peggy Kostelnik, called me and told me so.

“Well, I’m dead,” she said and I asked her to explain.

It turns out a woman who shares my mom’s full name and nickname and state of birth was murdered dramatically. That it happened during a presidential election year and at the hands of someone who entered this country illegally made my mother’s Google search results particularly dramatic. 

Can you imagine Googling your name and discovering that you are dead?

Our pal Google is a shady, shady friend.

At once an indispensable resource and a shameless gossip, Google will invite you to a global party and then talk smack about you behind your back when you arrive.

I know this for sure.

And, still I value our relationship.

Thanks to Google, I know enough about axolotls to converse with a seven-year old who is obsessed with them.

I knew, because I Googled, that yesterday’s Packer game kicked off at 8:30 a.m. (and not 8 a.m. as I had been led to believe.)

I have relied on Google maps more times than I care to admit.

I use Google Images all the time when I am curious about what I’ve just photographed.

I Google recipes when I’m hungry, which is often several times a day.

I heard “Don’t give up on us baby” yesterday on the 70s on 7 channel and immediately Googled David Soul. Yes, he is still alive. No, he didn’t write that song. Yes he went to jail just like you vaguely remember.

I am a grateful Google One member and store all my photos there.

Google is there for me every time I swipe.

But, I don’t trust Google and neither should you.

Google isn’t always fair to the people it tracks. It isn’t always accurate and it can give you a false sense of confidence in your own general knowledge. 

Check your sources, man.

Google can lead you astray.

I wasn’t sure what artwork to use with this post, so I played around with this. And, now I’m kind of curious what my friend Google is going to do with this piece.

9 thoughts on “Google is a shady friend

  1. Google maps are not 100% accurate either. I tried to find the location of a grocery store; typed in the address and Google maps said it was near St. E.’s hospital when in fact it was down near midway road!

    1. I have also been the victim of a falling out between Google Maps and a dropped Internet connection.

  2. I told my students about mom’s Google search when I taught them research skills and internet safety. “Google thinks my mom was murdered” certainly got their attention!

  3. I’m 100% behind you on this Laura. I don’t believe most of what I read online anymore! Fact check. So sad!

  4. Thanks for your post, Laura, about the dangers of believing everything one reads online – and I’m glad your mother is still very much alive!

    But I thought you might be interested in a little Google journey that your post inspired for me. Your somewhat tangential reference about David Soul brought up a vague recollection from my days at Aid Association for Lutherans (that shows you how long ago it was!) that David Soul was actually born David Solberg, and was the son of a Lutheran pastor.

    A quick Google search corroborated that from several sources, and also mentioned that David had lived in Berlin, West Germany for a few years because his father was a representative to the Lutheran World Federation, helping resettle displaced refugees during Germany’s reconstruction after World War II.

    Curious when this was, since I had gotten to know a Lutheran World Federation executive during my study year in West Berlin (1973-74), I searched further and found the elder Solberg’s obituary online, which said he was in West Berlin from 1953-56. It also mentioned that he had written a book called “As Between Brothers: The Story of Lutheran Response to World Need” in 1957.

    Now that was significant to me because my mother had gotten matched with a German woman and her family in the late 1940s through her Lutheran congregation in Indiana, and corresponded with them and sent care packages as they were getting back on their feet. Our two families actually met in 1974, and the relationship is now in the third generation. We’ve visited them several times, and they visited Appleton back in 2013.

    Would this book give any clues to the nature of the program that helped these two women to connect? Well, I Google-searched this 1957 book and found a copy on eBay that was “30% off for the next one hour and nine minutes” . . . so I ordered it. It’s due in our mailbox on Monday, so we’ll see.

    In any case, thanks for inspiring this little Google journey. It’s amazing what one can find online these days: “Don’t Give Up on Us Baby” is both a long — and a short — way from a book on German resettlement!

    Oh, and you said about David Soul “Yes he went to prison just like you vaguely remember”?

    Well, I found a quote from David Soul himself in the online Internet Movie Database that says “I was never jailed. The fact is that I was arrested, but went into a diversion program, and by that time I’d already begun working in what was called anger management.”

    So which one is right? Who knows? As you said, “Google isn’t always accurate!”

    1. Thank you for this excellent information and how horrifying that I shady Googled in a post about shady Googling! I updated the post. I would also love to hear more about your family’s three-generation relationship with your mom’s German penpal!

  5. I think it’s clear many don’t understand how massive the amount of data Google has on people. As an advertising company first and foremost. Google has provided free apps and service for one purpose. Collecting data from you through these apps and services. I am certain the government uses Google’s vast amount of data for its own purposes. I give Google credit as they have been very successful in obtaining users to adopt their ecosystem. Even as many articles tell the story about Google and what they do. Users seem to be unable or unwilling to give up Google. It is truly power when you have so much control over so many.

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