Andy Hicks wrote something on his blog three years ago, and it was a funny something, but he had to remove the post today because there was one line in it that could very easily be taken out of context.
The post in question was written during the summer of 2007, and was a satirical series of one-line bios that I had supposedly rejected. Some of them were fairly witty. Some of them were just silly. One of them was specifically written to sound awkward and skeezy, but within the context of the rest of the (now deleted) article, it was pretty darn funny. Out of context, however, it sounded… well… awkward and skeezy.
Guess what one line shows up when you Google “Andy Hicks”? Guess which single line, out of twenty, happens to be the one that happens to show up at number 3 in your search results when you look for my name? Guess which line googlers JUST HAPPEN to see first, forming their impression of me before I even have a chance to utter “Hello,”?
Readers: consider this a warning. Never use your real name online. Never write anything remotely salacious online. In fact, just disconnect your computer from the Internet right now and throw it out the window and run off to Vermont and live off the land. Your computer will only bring you pain.
I deleted the post. Not that Google cares. It takes a while to re-cache. Me, Andy Hicks, Capable And Talented Individual Who Owns Every Tori Amos Album, Including The Winter EP, labeled as a Horrible Sexual Harrasser because of one silly line I wrote three years ago in an attempt to be funny. That’s what I’m talking about. Google says “we are not evil,” but I can’t help but think that Googling might be.
Now you know what I’m talking about when I say I should just post a bunch of pictures of me golfing or doing other boring things, instead of doing anything that shows off who I really am. Because, see, who I really am is a snarky but ultimately kind hearted beast, and that doesn’t translate well in the age of the search engine.
Look – it’s not fair. I’m trying to not be afraid to write what I want. And because the kind of career I’m seeking normally has some sort of creative aspect, I want to use my real name and link to this site, because I think it’s – overall – a good thing. There’s a reason I rarely talk about anything personal on this blog – it’s none of your damn business. And, look, I’m proud of the stuff I’ve written here. If you know me, you know that 90% of the time when I say something controversial like that, I’m kidding. But if you don’t know me, and you search for my name, that one line – THAT ONE SINGLE LINE – is what comes up. Out of all the silly lines I’ve written over the last three years, the one that comes up is the one that makes me sound like a pervert.
I can’t for the life of me explain why that is. All the other lines in that post had “Andy Hicks” attached to them, so it could very easily have been “Andy Hicks has a head full of snot and a heart full of love,” which I’m particularly fond of. Or “Andy Hicks is the recipient of the 2004 Nobel Prize for Awkward,” also in that post. But no. The one that pops up in the search results is the boobs one. Thanks, Google. Now I’m a meth addict.
Now, now, Andy, you shouldn’t have posted that and used your real name and – yes, I know that. And don’t write anything you wouldn’t want the world to see, I know that too. See, I have no problem with the whole world seeing that post. My problem is that the whole world might only see one part of it and not understand that I was joking.
Mark Twain used the N-word in Huckleberry Finn, but no one calls him a racist. Edgar Allan Poe wrote The Tell-Tale Heart in the first person, but no one thinks he really killed a guy. Johnny Cash never killed a man in Reno just to watch him die, either. Now, if you think I’m saying what I do here is on the level of Johnny or Edgar or Mark, you’ve missed the point completely.
But let’s say that you’d never heard of Johnny Cash, and you were vetting Mr. Cash for a job, and the first quote you pulled up was him admitting to a particularly cold-blooded murder. Would you hire him?
What I’m saying is this: because Google is purely mechanical and unfeeling, there’s nothing that’s really stopping it from pulling up a single, incriminating line and presenting it as being just as true as anything else. In its “summary” box, Google could just as easily have pulled up my most recent post, where I mention my new portfolio blog with my name attached to it. Or it could have pulled up any other post where I use my full name. But no: it pulled up that post, and that line, from three years ago. No rhyme or reason to it. It just did.
Anyone who would have clicked on that link (you can read a cached version here) would have seen that it was perfectly innocuous and part of an obviously satiric take on the futility of trying to sum yourself up in one sentence or less. (They would also have seen that it was written during my “I want to be Chuck Klosterman when I grow up” phase.) But maybe they didn’t click on the link. Maybe they passed judgement and moved on. That’s what frightens the hell out of me.
“Andy Hicks is “married to the Lord.” They have three beautiful children together.”
See? Could have been that line. That line’s funny. But no. Cold Unfeeling GoogleBot 6000 wanted to be cute.
For the record: Andy Hicks does not stare because he knows it is rude and his Mama raised him right. He does, however, still have an unnatural fear of clogged drains.