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FROM THIS EPISODE

This is Rob Long with Martini Shot on KCRW.

Late at night, when I-m bored or distracted, I usually kill a few hours by Googling myself.

Let me rephrase that.

Late at night, when I-m bored or distracted, I usually kill a few hours by plugging my name into Google, the now-standard internet search engine, and seeing what comes up.

Yeah, that sounds better.

I get about 4800 hits, which is pretty good, I think, for a non-celebrity. Of course, some of those hits are sex sites, due, I-m told, to the fact that my last name, when combined with certain other words, gives off a certain porno vibe. And there-s a photographer with my name who has a site, and a few kids in high school, and someone trying to sell a 1967 Mustang Fastback. Oh, and a guy who specializes in counseling victims of intra-family sexual abuse has a site, and is quoted here and there. But when I cut out all of the non-me Rob Longs and really focus on Googling myself, alone, I get some interesting responses.

There are, apparently, a few misguided people around who did not find my first book, Conversations with My Agent, the delightful and memorable read that it is, okay? And they have found each other on the Net, and, thanks to Google, I-ve found them. It-s nothing too painful to read, actually - even my worst critics seem to have enjoyed the book - but it-s still a little weird to come across, and it stings more than any proper, published review I received. It-s almost like I-ve overheard a conversation that perhaps I shouldn-t have. If you-re just a titch over-sensitive about these things - and considering all of the things in the world there are to be sensitive to, what, exactly, does oversensitive mean? - it feels like you-ve just discovered that sometimes, when you-re not around, your friends talk trash about you.

Of course, it-s not all bad. There are also people on the net who have read things that I-ve written, here and elsewhere, that they-ve especially enjoyed. Some so much so that they-ve even cut-and-pasted bits of my writing into their own websites. This would be an ego boost if it weren-t for the baffling, hodge-podge graphics of most of the sites, and the too-enthusiastic way they agree with me.

This is the kind of thing I-ve discovered during my late-night sessions of self-Googling: apparently, my tiny internet fan base is composed primarily of shut-ins with severe personality disorders. Good thing to know.

So why do I do it? Why waste time surfing the net for traces of your own identity?

In the first place, if you-re anything like me, a big part of it is wanting - no, needing - to know what people are saying about you.

But even for people who don-t have their scratchy thoughts published regularly, though, it-s still a good idea to self-Google on a regular basis. It-s important to know how much information about you is out there, floating around in space, ready to be collected by an anonymous Googler.

Politicians practice a particularly elevated form of self-Googling when they hire private investigators to investigate themselves, just to find out what their opponent might find out if he did the same, which they know he-s going to, because anyone who needs to hire an investigator to find out how easy it-ll be to dig up the dirt must surely have some dirt worth digging up.

Self-googling helps answer the really big questions we ask ourselves, late at night, when no one-s around: What are people saying about me? What do people think of me? What-s out there about my daily schedule, my address, my job, my family, my 1967 Mustang Fastback?

I think of self-Googling as a new kind of 21st Century personal hygiene, like flossing regularly or trimming your fingernails. You don-t have to do it everyday, but it should be part of your regular personal maintenance.

So try it. Just type in your name, between quotation marks, and click "send." Good luck.

Oh, and try not to take it personally.

For KCRW, this is Rob Long with Martini Shot.

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