At first glance, it seems like my data identity somewhat accurately represents who I am. When I Google my name, the first few links I see are my LinkedIn, my Twitter, and my Instagram. Admittedly, these are the three largest sites that I keep information about myself publicly available on. Additionally, a decent number of images show up of myself. I see pictures from when I played baseball in high school, pictures from when I was on my high school’s newspaper, as well as profile pictures.
All that being said, I couldn't help but feel like my results were somewhat "backwards". A lot of information about myself in high school (baseball, school newspaper, etc) came up on the first page of results, often times in the top 5-10 results. What was missing from the front page was the stuff that is way more relevant to my life. For example, I'm an active Spotify user with lots of playlists to my name, but it doesn't show until the second page. In this same vein, I gave a TEDx Talk in high school (which in all honesty is why I think I got in to UMich...) but that doesn't show until the second page of my Google results. I don't know about you, but I rarely look past the first page of results regardless of what I'm searching for.
The first thing you see when you google my name is my LinkedIn profile. I actually like this a lot, and I wouldn’t want this to change. The link preview shows my name, as well the fact that I’m a Building Supervisor for the UMich Rec Sports Department. Interestingly, I was thinking about that earlier, and how I’m in the process of applying for software engineering internships. Because I’m in the internship search process, having my LinkedIn as the first available thing is great, however I wonder if the fact that the searcher also sees that I’m a part-time Building Supervisor, which is not a technical position, and makes an assumption about my resulting technical skills. Additionally, there have been multiple times that I have had people direct message me on LinkedIn about supervisor positions in construction and building development. I definitely plan on changing my current job to whichever internship I (hopefully) get, but it might be worth changing now so I don’t project a misleading image of my professional self.
Instagram and Twitter
After my LinkedIn, the only other two social media that show up are my Instagram and Twitter -- both of which make sense. I don’t post on any social media super regularly, but when I do it’s going to either Twitter or Instagram.
Both of these accounts, however, are set to private. Meaning that users must request to follow me, and I must accept that follow, before they see my content on either site. This means that the outfacing parts of my profile to users who don’t follow me are simply my profile pictures and little biography statement on my accounts.
While I mentioned earlier that some of my results are missing from the front page. That being said, I'm glad that my social media and LinkedIn appear first, as that's what I expected and I believe to the most accurate representation of myself.
While the most relevant parts of my outwards facing life (LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter) show up as the first three links, the other social media I am a part of don’t show up. For example, Facebook. My Facebook, which I haven’t actively used in years but I still expected to show up, is nowhere to be seen on the first page of Google results for my name. I did a quick check of some of my friends, and most of their Facebook pages would show somewhere on the first page of Google results, which makes me wonder why mine is missing.
Another thing that’s missing is the video to a TEDxTalk I did a few years ago. On the TEDx website, they spelled my last name as “Pirayali”, which resulted in this page not being accessible from Googling my name. I’ve reached out to TEDx to update the page, but they have yet to do so. While them fixing the spelling of my name would certainly make it more likely for this to show up on Google when my name is searched, as we’ve seen with my Facebook there’s no real guarantee that it would show up. What is interesting though, is that the thumbnail of the video of my talk, which is uploaded on YouTube, is one of the first images that shows up when you look at my name on Google Images
While I’m not complaining about this, my Reddit page also doesn’t show on Google for my name, which is appealing to me. If you do find my Reddit account, you’ll see all I really talk about is sports, programming and commenting on memes. But, I do like that Reddit still feels like it has a sense of anonymity, and I try to live my life as anonymous as possible. Which is why my Instagram and Twitter accounts are private. Reddit provides a unique opportunity to be able to engage with social media in a more anonymous format -- not even requiring an email address in order to make an account. While this has obviously been manipulated in lots of bad ways, I do find it appealing to be able to be social online with more anonymity.
I also thought it would be interesting to look at what would happen if I looked at the Google Images results for myself. Most of the pictures are completely irrelevant. The first one is from when I used to play baseball in high school, and we needed profile pictures for a sports recruiting website. Also, in regards to that picture, I look terrible in it which isn’t ideal.
The next picture is of me making a funny face. This picture is from my freshman year of high school when I first joined my school’s newspaper. We were trying to launch a website which had staff profiles for everyone, and we were encouraged to make the photos as funny as possible, which is why I settled on the face I did. Looking back on it, had I known it would be one of the main images that would show up when I Googled myself six years later, I probably would have done something different. Also, some pictures of the other people in that journalism class also show up scattered through the Google Images results for myself.
As for the other pictures, my Twitter profile picture appears as well as the thumbnail for the TEDxTalk I discussed earlier. What I find interesting is that the LinkedIn profile pictures for one of my friends shows up, but my own LinkedIn profile picture isn’t on any of the results. Not that this is a huge deal, but it is interesting to see that the algorithm that decides what images to show, or just the search process itself on Google’s end, clearly makes some mistakes.
Unfortunately, when Googling my name you’re also met with a decent amount of irrelevant content. As I mentioned earlier, you see a lot of sites connecting to my high school baseball days, dating all the way back to statistics profiles back when I was 14. I also found a link to my Soundcloud, which is just a profile I use to make playlists.
This also feels reflective of my sentiment about my search results feeling "backwards". While Google will always yield irrelevant results, it feels like these irrelevant results were appearing before the relevant content of my life.
Finally, I wanted to explore what would happen if I went to pages 2-4 of my Google results. I did this because I felt like a lot of online profiles I was expecting to see on the first page didn’t even show, and instead I got websites relating to a lot of irrelevant parts of my life.
Interestingly, as I looked at the next few pages I ended up seeing a lot of results for pages I was expecting to see earlier. My Spotify, YouTube, ESPN, and University of Michigan research projects all appear in pages 2-4. If I could, I’d replace most of the results on my page 1 with those on my page 2. Even though my Spotify is just playlists and I don’t post anything on YouTube, it feels like it makes sense if these social media profiles appear, because they’re at least somewhat more relevant. It makes much more sense for my Spotify and UM research to appear before my batting average for my U14 baseball team. Also, the TEDxTalk I gave appears on page 2 of my Google search, where I’d really prefer that to be one of the first things people see about me.
Most interestingly, my Facebook profile is nowhere to be seen on the first three pages of Google results. I wonder if it's a setting in my Facebook account that I chose unknowingly, or if because I haven’t posted on Facebook in a while that Google just doesn’t see it as relevant.
In all, my Google results about myself are weird. The very first things people see when they Google me are great: you see my most engaged with social media and you see my LinkedIn. However, after getting past these first results, things get out of order. You see high school baseball stats, my SoundCloud and a Pinterest I didn't even know I had. While I agree this should all show up in a search about me, it shouldn't be shown before my research, TEDx Talk, or my Spotify.
I'm not sure if this is an algorithmic issue or if I need to do a better job of optimizing the relevant pages about me so they show before the stuff that is less so. I also did some "tests" and Googled my roommates to see if a similar issue came up, and it didn't. Not only was I able to find their Facebook profiles, I was able to find their Spotifys and other relevant parts of their life before the irrelevant stuff, which is reversed of my experience.
In the end, it's not the end of the world. The first thing you see about me is my LinkedIn, which is good. Next are my main social media accounts... also good. From there, I'm not too sure how many people would dig deeper if they wanted to see who I am at a glance. So, for a surface level search, my results are great. From there, however, I think there's some optimization and fixing to be done.