Thursday, October 9, 2008

Search and Ye Shall Find?

For work, I'm currently reading Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters by Bill Tancer. It's a book about how our online searches speak to who we are as people. The premise is that our deepest desires and fears are most purely revealed by analyzing our actions when we are alone with our computers and the Interweb.

The "what people are doing online" part (looking for prom dresses in January and porn pretty much all the time) is pretty much what I expected. The "why it matters" bit is what I find intriguing, and I'm finding that Mr. Tancer doesn't delve into that as deeply as I would hope. Once he finds the answer, he moves on to the next "problem." Whereas I want him to keep asking "but why? but why?" until he can't ask anymore. I think I'm looking for a deeper appraisal of human nature, and I'm getting "2+2=4." One example - his data shows that the visitors to confessional websites such as True Mom Confessions tend to be affluent women in the suburbs. But why? He leaves it up to the reader to surmise.

Sometimes the internet feels very lonely to me - like being at a party surrounded by people but not having a close connection with any of them. Sometimes it feels small - you get that sense that you've somehow reached the end of it, that there's no more to see. Social networking sites like Facebook make the internet more social, with a live feed of what your friends are doing, where they are, who they're friends with - but you're just seeing what people want you to see. That's why Click, in spite of its shortcomings, is fascinating and scary at the same time. Because there's the public internet (our Facebook, our Myspace, even this blog) and then there's the private Internet - our search histories and queries, our "stalking" of old love interests and our googling of possible new ones. And obviously the latter tells more about us than the former - but what, exactly, is it telling us?


Bianca (as in Jagger) said...

I agree with you. His approach sounds like more statistics than the psychology of it. I'd want to know WHY I spend hours trolling Ebay for things I'm not actually going to bid on. What does that mean?

Anonymous said...

I watch the Chanel fashion shows as many times as possible! And love it!! I also shop J.Crew, put stuff in my cart and then abandon my cart!! ha!