What’s In Your Google Shadow?
Everyone has said or written something they later regretted. However, for most things, people forgive, they forget, they move on. For many things we regret saying, there isn’t a public record, only a private one between individuals. There is no personal court reporter making transcriptions of everything we say in person, or on the phone, or write on a post-it note.
That was true until Google, however, and the creation of your own personal Google Shadow. Your Google Shadow is the lifetime collection of all the information you have ever posted to the web. Everyone post written, blog comment made, rant delivered, or complaint aired is quietly and efficiently stored in search servers around the world. It will probably still be there for your great-great-grandchildren to see, long after you are gone.
Jeff Jarvis at Buzz Machine writes about how the relatively positive benefits of a life online outweigh the trouble your Google Shadow can cause you. While the embarrassing moments will be there for everyone to see forever, this is compensated by knowing that a virtual network of all the people you’ve ever known throughout your life is only a couple clicks away.
On the other hand, Max Fawcett at This Magazine talks about the negative tendency of Google Shadows to come back to haunt you. He also has a great quote from Douglas Coupland on living with your shadow:
“You’ve got this thing that follows you no matter where you go. It’s going to survive your real shadow long after you’re dead. It’s composed of truth, half-truth, lies, vengeance, wishful thinking, accuracy, inaccuracy. It grows and grows and gets bigger. It’s you but it’s not you.”
Personally, I don’t think the existence of my Google shadow is a positive or a negative thing. It just is.
You can know that thirty years from now you can search and probably see some form every web site you’ve created, potentially every Flickr photo you shared, and any random blog comment you posted, all preserved forever, courtesy of Google and the rest of the search engines.
It doesn’t make me want to pull the plug and live in a cave. However, it does kind of make me pause and think a bit before hitting publish.