04/16/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Googling Ghosts

I Google, you Google, we all pretty much Google...but what do we Google? Well, we all know about work and pleasure Googling. But some of us Google ourselves when we're avoiding our work and pleasure. The thing about Googling anything is that if you serial Google, you're not just repeating yourself. New information crops up, you learn more about what is public about yourself. You may also learn about other people who share your name. For instance, Amy Spies is also a veterinarian in the South I wonder, does that other 'me' wonder who I am? Are we getting each other's mail? There are variations on the self-Googling theme. If you're famous, you might, like my friend, Google your misspelled name, and see what results come up.
If you're like me, you might Google friends and relatives...even beloved ones that Googling will remind you have left the land of the living long ago. Unlike the boy in the movie "Sixth Sense", I don't see dead people; but I do Google them from time to time. For Googling is also the Google gift that keeps on giving: it refreshes with news about these deceased loved ones. I Googled my mother a few years ago and found out that she had written a short story that was part of a 'best short stories' series. Well, her after-life has been busy and productive. A few Googles later, she's gained two TV writing credits: one for a screenplay that was executive produced by Alfred Hitchcock.

It feels strange to have data about loved ones bubble up like a potion on the Internet. I suppose there's some parallel to uncovering a parent's diary in a dusty attic trunk or musty momentos under a floorboard. But the diary and souvenirs were there, waiting to be found. Discovering information online when it wasn't previously there makes it feel like it has just magically appeared. I suppose I could Google to learn how these factoids land on the Internet. But Google won't reveal why I never knew of her writing credits during her life, except to detail how women were conditioned not to outshine their spouses during that era.
Although I am a devout researcher, I have never tried to figure out how data about my parents lands on my search engine. Maybe because it seems like a connection back to them. It's as if I'm seeing them, or at least part of them, like I'm learning some new aspect of their past lives. It could have been them telling me, but they can't anymore. But when details crop up because I type a loved one's name, it feels as if the loved one is responding. If this were a Hitchcock story, maybe the dead person I Googled wouldn't just have written for Hitchcock -- maybe she would actually come back to life. I'd love to be in that story.