There has been much media coverage about the Pew Internet and American Life Project research (12.16.07) on Americans googling themselves for what I call reptuation checkups. I felt that I could not ignore it since it falls into what I also call my reputation bucket (all things reputation-related). Afterall, your “good name” is all we have.
Pew found that nearly one-half (47 percent) of Americans have searched for their own names to see whether they were receiving a thumbs up or thumbs down. This name-searching figure has dramatically doubled since 2002 when Pew found only 22 percent targeting themselves online. I can’t say I blame them. I have searched my own name several times since reputation is my middle name (just kidding). Interestingly, most Americans don’t search for their names online on a regular basis. Apparently they are not worried about what might be said about them. This bears out in the research — the majority (six out of ten Americans) are not worried about how much information is available about them online. I assume they believe they can manage their reputations well enough. Probably a mistake as privacy gets increasingly scarce.
Interesting tidbits in the Pew report include:
- Only 4 percent found disturbing or inaccurate information online associated with their name
- Most searches are innocuous — looking for someone’s contact info
- Those under 50 were more likely to be interested in their online reputations
As one of the co-author’s wrote: “Nostalgia seems to motivate quite a few Internet users. the most popular search target is someone from the past — an old friend, an old flame, or a former colleague.”
I imagine that name-searching is much higher among business executives who depend on their reputations for career opportunities and advancement and enhancing their own company reputations. My guess is that the figure would be closer to 85 percent vs. the 47 percent Pew found. Either way, reputation checkups are important and will probably soar when Pew does its next research in 2012 (five years from now!).