Eighteen years after its initial launch, Google’s influence over our everyday lives is so powerful that it’s almost easy to forget what life was like pre-Google, or how we first stumbled upon it (more likely face-planted into it, like the Internet toddlers we were in the late 1990s/early 2000s).
That’s why Jessi Klein’s story for The Moth is both charmingly nostalgic and amazingly prescient about Google – this thing, this “fucking insane search engine” that would eventually change almost every aspect of how we create and consume stuff online. Klein, for those who don’t know, is now head writer and executive producer at Inside Amy Schumer; but in 2003, when Klein originally told her story on The Moth, she was an aspiring comic using a brutal break-up as material. The Moth recently resurfaced the episode, timed to the publication of Klein’s new book.
In the first part of the story, Klein recounts how her boyfriend of six years asked her to move out and almost immediately began sleeping with one of her co-workers. Klein’s self-loathing manifests itself in a quest to find out something, anything, about this woman that would help her feel better about herself.
And that’s when a friend recommends Google.
Now, I was a nerd, but I was not a geek. So I didn’t know what Google was. I didn’t know! And I’m sure – right -you all know what it is? If there’s one or two people here … I’ll explain it. Google is the most powerful thing ever invented on the planet. [laughter] It is this fucking insane search engine that allows you to be crazy, and stalk someone from the comfort of your own fucking home. Right? It is a more important invention than fire or the wheel, as far as I am concerned … I am going to Google the crap out of this girl …
So I Google her, and I didn’t understand the power of Google so I didn’t expect anything to happen. But in three seconds this link comes up, and it takes me to this article…
Klein falls down a Google rabbit hole, digging for dirt on her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend on a nightly basis, until the day it occurs to her to maybe this girl is also obsessed with her.
I don’t know why it never occurred to me to Google myself. I think I thought there was a rule against it or something. Or that the computer would implode. Like the self-absorption wouldn’t be handled. But I’m like, I’m going to do it. So I Googled myself. And to my shock and amazement, there’s shit there. On the computer, about me, and I didn’t put it there …
So it made me feel better, and I realized that was the only antidote to feeling shitty feelings I had when I Googled her was to Google myself. And here’s the thing about Googling yourself: it’s as dirty as it sounds. You know what I mean? It is – it just is masturbating. You have this urge to do it, but you don’t want anyone to know you’re doing it. And the thing is, just like masturbating, people deny it, but everyone does it.
So there you have it. Google actually is an all-powerful, fucking insane search engine that is (possibly) a more important invention than fire or the wheel, and Googling oneself still feels dirty. Either a) not much has changed on the Internet, which we know is not true, which must mean b) Jessi Klein is a smart woman. If you’re not completely convinced of that yet, just consider how she described Craigslist back in the day: a “hippy-dippy bulletin board of people renting apartments and giving each other bikes and shit.”
And, while Klein ultimately might not have gotten much satisfaction from the constant Googling, at the very least she gets the final mic drop on the whole episode: At the end of her Moth story, Ethan Hawke saunters up the mic in what I can only imagine was true Troy Dyer fashion, and asks for Klein’s email address.
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