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Google Says the World Hates Bloggers and Women

Image by Patrick Barry

 

After reading this interesting yet disturbing article in the Guardian about how Google’s autocomplete spells out our darkest thoughts, I began to wonder how much you could learn about the world from Google’s autocomplete results.

I have always considered this feature to be sometimes amusing but also slightly irritating. I’ve often wanted to shout out ‘No you DON’T know what I’m about to say’, as I would to anyone who keeps finishing my sentences for me.

women should be silent

We learned from our friend Chris Fielden’s Exterminate blog series that some of the search terms revealed by autofill results border on terrifying. After all, Google reveals our deepest darkest secrets by showing the world exactly what we look for the most. The UN ad campaign (subject of aforementioned Guardian article) reveals that sexual discrimination is very much still ingrained in society, regardless of where in the world that society is.

The search suggestions show that popular searches underneath ‘Women should‘ all ran along the lines of ‘be silent’, ‘stay at home’, ‘be in the kitchen’, and ‘not drive’, but when you type in ‘Men shouldn’t‘, the first suggestion is: ‘hit women’ (hurray!) but the others are all along the lines of: ‘wear white socks’, ‘take selfies’, ‘eat soy’ and ‘pay for dates’.  Wow.

You can try this at home, I’m not even joking.

bloggers are losers

It’s an interesting if depressing exercise to take a look at exactly how some things and some people are viewed by the world. It tells us that we have some really big problems to deal with.

In order to veer in a lighter direction, I then started to wonder what I could learn from it in relation to our occupation. We are writers, we love the written word and take pride in our craft and make it our business to create interesting content for others to read. That is how some of us define ourselves.

Some of us aren’t poets or fiction writers, we are bloggers. We comment upon the world and share what we feel is interesting with others. In a nutshell.

What does Google tell us?

Ouch.

Whilst bloggers can maybe enjoy the ‘new celebrities’ status, the rest are pretty damning and reveal a real distaste for those who blog.

I then decided to replace ‘bloggers’ with ‘writers’ and see if that made any difference.

Wow.

‘Engineers of the soul’, I like.

‘Crazy’ and ‘weird’, I’ve been called these things by some of my dearest friends.

Lazy, desperate, forgetful loners? Interesting way to describe people who enrich the world with wisdom, with characters that will live on forever, with knowledge that is passed down from generation to generation and stories that will never be forgotten.

how does it work?

Now, Google suggestions are algorithmically determined in various ways and based on various factors, including:

  • Search activity of all web users
  • Your own search activity
  • Region and language
  • Popularity of search terms

So Google uses data about general web usage and popular queries and predicts what you are looking for, but you end up learning just what people really think of you.

But not to worry, the suggestions are updated very regularly so when a popular and current event is taking place or some celebrity scandal has just broken, you can guarantee that Google will be there to predict exactly what you want to know about it, even before you do.

want to know what I think?

I think this feature is a useful tool to determine many things and I hope that the predictions become less vitriolic and scary one day. But until then, they will simply reflect how the world is, I guess.

And to those who think that bloggers are stupid and that writers are lazy: “There is no darkness but ignorance” (William Shakespeare).

And to those inspiring Google to tell us that women should be seen and not heard, go and make us a sandwich while we get on with running the world, will you?

Please leave some comments & let’s get a debate going!

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5 Comments

  1. Benjamin L. Stewart

    November 1, 20137:59 pm

    Just because there are more people responding negatively online (which means they naturally appear more often in Google searches) does not necessarily mean they are representative of society as a whole. My gut tells me that most people do not think bloggers are stupid…it’s just that those who do think this tend to post their opinions more than those who do not. For this reason, I am not sad at all when Google automatically suggests negative opinions about bloggers. To be honest, doing these kinds of Google searches really tells us very little about public opinion. One would need to conduct actual research in order to see what people actually thought.

  2. ST

    October 30, 201312:22 pm

    Out of curiosity I tried this in Dutch. The results seem to be less awful.

    For women should (vrouwen moeten)
    I got ‘work more’; ‘have the right to pepper spray’; ‘be silent in the congregation’ and ‘be able to dance’.

    Work more most likely relates to the fact that the Netherlands has a lot of women who work in part time jobs. Politicians keep bringing it up in their talks about the economy.

    For men shouldn’t (mannen moeten niet) I got nothing at all…

    But for men should (mannen moeten)
    there are:
    ‘hunt’
    ‘be like coffee’
    ‘sit down to pee’
    ‘be like coffee good strong and warm’

    The search on bloggers only got me
    ‘bloggers are journalists’
    ‘bloggers are the new journalists’
    ‘what are bloggers’

    So maybe the hate is related to searches performed in the English language? I wonder if other people did this in different languages what results they would get.

    Anyway, take comfort, in The Netherlands and Flanders, bloggers are as yet little know and those who are known, are in good standing 🙂

    • Susannah Plomer

      October 30, 20132:25 pm

      Haha! Thank you ST! That really made my day! It’s very interesting indeed to see how these autofill fields vary from region to region and also according to time of year, so I’m told. It’s fun to try this with all different kinds of phrases, it really does reveal so much about people’s internet habits. Check out the exterminate blog series I linked to in the article, it’s hilarious (and terrifying!)
      Also, it’s great that bloggers from the Netherlands and Flanders are yet to be discovered and have the glory they deserve! Get blogging! 🙂 Thanks for your comment & for stopping by 🙂

  3. Benjamin L. Stewart

    October 24, 20133:14 am

    Actually, doing a Google search for “Bloggers are…”, and concluding that Google is telling us something (albeit a bit anthropomorphic), ignores the possibility that popular blog posts, articles, etc. post ridiculous ideas that generate a lot of (possibly opposing) responses. Perhaps the reason ridiculous posts generate so many responses (and ultimately show up high in Google’s ranking) is that just maybe, many people disagree with the authors original thesis (e.g., Bloggers are losers.). It would be worth conducting a study, but it certainly is a possibility. The question is…”Are individuals more likely to respond to a post they agree with, or one that they disagree with? I suspect the latter.

    • Susannah Plomer

      October 24, 20138:48 am

      I do agree with you Benjamin. I just found it interesting and a little sad that when I typed in ‘bloggers are…’ the phrases that were suggested were mostly negative. Negative and derogatory statements seem to be generally more popular to web users than sweeping positive statements. In the blogging world, headlines such as ‘The Worst ….. Ever’ tend to naturally draw more hits than posts entitled: ‘The Best…or The Most Wonderful….’ etc. Do you not think? I also found the results of ‘women should’ and ‘men shouldn’t’ a very interesting reflection of what people are searching for online, regardless of whether or not they reflect genuine opinion.

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