googling away
02-03-2024 • 5 min
from do platypuses produce milk? to is it normal to want to punch something when angry? to how do i know if someone likes me? my incognito google chrome window has seen just about everything—the heartwarming, the ugly, the crazy. in fact, if you take every single one of my searches and piece them together, you could probably understand me better than even i do. i guess it’s something about seeking refuge in the fact that my feelings are common enough to be explained by a WikiHow article in the top 5 google search results. or that i can’t find the right words to describe exactly what i’m feeling or my response to something, but instead someone on reddit can tell me that i actually deal with revenge bedtime procrastination. or really that sometimes i don’t know what to do with myself and with what i’m thinking so i pour my thoughts into the google search bar just to get a reaction (from who? from what? i don’t know). at this point, the Cmd + Shift + N is almost a reflex—i feel overwhelmed with emotion and i just start googling away.

i’ve always placed a lot of value in being unique, in being different than everyone else. i mean, in eighth grade my friend sent me this special kind of personality test that was supposed to be more encompassing than MBTI, and i got “the individualist.” when i heard that she got the same thing, as ironic as it is, i retook the quiz with different answers so that i could get a different classification. or when i ran my first half marathon, i actively asked no one to show up at the finish line because that was a feeling i wanted to experience completely on my own. and when Spotify Wrapped inevitably tells me that my top genre is pop, i’m always so embarrassed to admit it.

earlier this summer when someone told me about how they felt this exact desire to be unique, i got so excited because i felt so heard. i always say that when i do my longest runs, there’s always a point where the trail feels so empty, when there is no one else i can see—and those moments feel the loneliest. there are very few times i’ve felt the same satisfaction as i did when i heard that Hank Green had the same favorite movie as i do (Puss in Boots: The Last Wish—i think “perfect” is the only way to describe it). so how is it possible that the same person who didn’t want to share a personality classification with anyone else, who wanted to cross the finish line alone, who doesn’t want to share her media taste with others, could also simultaneously feel all of these other things? could i, who endlessly made fun of harvard’s “it’s lonely at the top” sweatshirts, be striving for that exact feeling?

i’m not really sure. maybe it is possible to feel both. when i indulge in voluntarily feeling things within my own bubble, i immediately turn to google to hide the fact that i also seek solace. and in the process, i forget that as much as i want to be an individualist and carve out my own path, it’s okay to step back and find comfort in that i’m not alone in this fact. i’m not unique in wanting to be unique. but nonetheless, we each are filled with our own thoughts—our own set of google searches that no two people can share. so somehow, all the ways in which i am different from everyone around me also make me that much similar to them.

sometimes i wish i could see what other people’s google searches would be. i want to know what my favorite Caltrain conductor thinks about on a random afternoon, or why that person who forgot their starbucks on the WeWork counter decided to put 5 shots of espresso in their coffee that day. i’d like to think that if you could randomly sample a person, and got to read all of what would comprise their google searches, it would be hard not to fall in love with them. Fredrick Backman puts it perfectly in Anxious People—“it’s always very easy to declare that other people are idiots, but only if you forget how idiotically difficult being human is.” and a lot of the time, i do forget. i forget with the person i just booed at while driving, i forget with the person i just judged for ordering DoorDash from a place just 5 minutes away, i forget with myself. until i hit Cmd + Shift + N and find out that pandalover623 on Quora, 12 years ago, asked the same question as me.