Pew Study: More Americans Searching For Themselves On The Internet

Dec 17, 2007 | 2,717 views | by Navneet Kaushal
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Pew Internet & American Life Project in a press release report that "47% of internet users have searched for their own name online, up from 22% five years ago." Though this figure pertains to those who've searched for themselves, but they also found that most don't regularly monitor their online presence.

There's been a proliferation of "participatory Web," which entails social networking sites as blogs, YouTube, Flickr, and others like them has increased the magnitude of people's "digital footprints." However not many people systematically manage their profiles. Further, compared to adults it's the teens who've restricted access to their profiles.

According to Mary Madden who's a co-author of the report; Digital Footprints: Online identity management and search in the age of transparency. "The cumulative traces of our online activity are more visible in the age of Web 2.0,…The more content we voluntarily contribute to the public or semi-public corners of the Web, the more we become not only findable, but knowable."

The report is the outcome of a national telephonic survey of of 2,373 adults out of which 1,623 were Internet users. They survey was carried out in December 2006, the error margin is (+/-)3%

Other findings are that 60% of Internet users aren't wary of their personal information being available on the Internet. Some off course are, about 38% say they've actively tried to limit the information available about them.

Different number of people have different amounts of information about them that's available online:

  • For one-third; it's email address, home address, home phone number, or who's their employer, is available.
  • For one-quarter; it's "a photo, names of groups they belong to, or things they have written that have their name on it appear online."
  • Though few, but there are some who's "political affiliation, cell phone number, or video appear online."

Search for Others:

And for the question, who do people search for on the Internet? Well, 53% of adult users say that they've searched for either of these: family and friends, romantic interests and business colleagues.

When people search for others it's usually the contact details that they look for, "…72% of people searchers have sought contact information online," but there are other reasons too.

The other reasons are:

  • "…someone's photo," 31%.
  • "…someone's professional accomplishments or interests," 37%.
  • "…someone's profile on a social and professional networking site," 33%.
  • "…public records, such as real estate transactions, divorce proceedings, bankruptcies, or other legal actions," 31%.
  • "…personal background information," 28%

But what are some of the reasons for which people that people search?

Susannah Fox who's co-authored the report says "Nostalgia seems to motivate quite a few internet users. The most popular search target is someone from the past – an old friend, an old flame, or a former colleague,"

She further comments "These findings provide powerful evidence of the internet's capacity to reunite and reignite social connections. One-third of internet users say they have searched for information about someone with whom they have lost touch. And one in five internet users say someone has reached out to reconnect with them after finding their contact information online."

While nostalgia seems to justify searches for contact information, but what about other searches, such as for "someone's professional accomplishments or interests." or "…public records, such as real estate transactions, divorce proceedings, bankruptcies, or other legal actions" and personal background checks.

Since nostalgia doesn't seem to explain all the searches, for some searches may be it's "social comparison" or to know more about a person who you are considering a relationship with. It wouldn't be surprising to know if some of the searches are background checks taken up by employers, who knows?

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Navneet Kaushal

Navneet Kaushal is the founder and CEO of PageTraffic, an SEO Agency in India with offices in Chicago, Mumbai and London. A leading search strategist, Navneet helps clients maintain an edge in search engines and the online media. Navneet's expertise has established PageTraffic as one of the most awarded and successful search marketing agencies.
4.thumbnail Pew Study: More Americans Searching For Themselves On The Internet
4.thumbnail Pew Study: More Americans Searching For Themselves On The Internet