It's always entertaining to look through my stat logs and see how people find me. The winner for search terms, by far, is still "himmmm", from over a year ago when that little gossip debacle hit Jezebel and I weighed in on the sanity of the author (dubious), his legal standing for the cease and desist letters (not even Lionel Hutz, "law-talkin'-guy", would take this one) and the chances that it really was Robert Downey Jr (no; most amusing denial from his publicist, whose actual assurance was in the form, "Robert is a much better writer than that."). I manage to make myself accidentally internet-famous about once every 12-18 months on average, I just didn't expect it to be over that -- someone pointed at a summary I'd done on a message board somewhere, and apparently the only thing that propagates faster than gossip is someone doing a reasonably intelligent and correctly-spelled forensic analysis of gossip. Lesson learned.

I also didn't quite expect the attention that quickly. This blog was new at the time, and under a pen name I'd adopted in rather a hurry, after some very crazy people effectively forced me to give up a very long-term screenname to shake them. My friends followed me over, but there were a lot of lurkers I had no way to contact. I wasn't quite building up an audience from nothing, but it was closer than I'd have liked. I write because if I didn't I'd go berserk, but I post publicly because people tell me they enjoy reading.

More recently, Captain Awkward went viral, and linked to me while she was going viral, so now my blog stats have this fuck-off huge spike in them from the three days when everyone on the internet was obsessed with tweeting each other about creepy people. Confused the ever-loving daylights out of Google Analytics' earnings predictor, let me tell you. I'm glad I showed up not long before the Boston meetup; it was full of ice cream and people who colored things and eventually got down to swapping war stories of hideously awkward moments of social fail, sometimes in completely different countries and languages.

(I was informed by more than one person that my explanations of social interaction apparently make sense. I've always thought so, but of course I would -- I devised this method for not continually embarrassing myself in public, after all. Mine is kind of slapdash from the normal perspective, but apparently the explicit intellectualization of the absolutely everything helps a lot if you fail people, but routinely get extra credit in geometry.)

Some people, I just have to wonder about. One lone searcher managed to somehow find my blog by putting "blowjobs" into Google. How much free time must you have to go through all of the thousands of pages of things Google will return for a search on "blowjobs" before you find one off-handed comment I once made about the quality of school portraits? Especially since Google shows snippets, and the surrounding text makes it pretty clear that I'm only talking about metaphorical blowjobs in that sentence.

I haven't seen any deeply, horrifyingly, worryingly depressing ones yet. Someone pops up from time to time searching on some permutation of "smart kids" and "weird" or "awkward" or "friendless", and I hope they find something here that makes them feel less alone. I like to think that for every person who glares heatedly at the side of my head when I talk about IQ in a social context, there's some other kid sitting quietly in a corner, pretending to be reading so hard s/he doesn't notice the isolation, who knows exactly what I'm talking about. It's a serious mindfuck the way intelligence is held up officially as a positive social deviation -- and therefore anyone who wants to make a safe, insular, subcultural space for the frightening smart kids is being elitist and exclusionary -- but treated in a practical sense as a negative social deviance -- making any demonstration thereof an excuse for the kids who (rightly or wrongly) don't see themselves ever being on the genius track to start punching you until lunch money comes out. I couldn't be not-brainy if I tried. If some people are going to be pissed at me over spewing smart in all directions anyway, I might as well use it to make friends with the people who aren't.

(In my soc-sci classes I used to half-seriously call this the Non-Reciprocal Rule of Social Deviance: Negative social deviance results in negative consequences. Positive social deviance results in... negative consequences.

One of the reasons I'm both a very good and very enthusiastic social theorist is that in my field, you are not required to edit the snark out of your papers. It's actually encouraged, to a certain academical point, snark having a long, proud tradition of being not just a method of communication, but the starting point for a lot of social criticism. [For some literary examples see Swift, Jonathan; Bierce, Ambrose; Chesterton, G K; and so on.] Which is good, because if I had to snip out all of the sarcasm and dry asides, my paper would inevitably wind up shorter than its own abstract.)

From time to time, I get a hit on something like "orthographic film". I'm also familiar with winding up bizarrely high in the search rankings just because I write about a lot of completely and utterly random stuff that is apparently just rare enough that posting more recently than anyone else rearranges the page rank algorithm rather wildly. I remember asking for help with something once -- lessons for Viennese waltz, I think -- and having someone come back and tell me that they tried their Google-fu on it and found that the first result was my blog entry asking for information.

The normal complement of exact URLs to different entries also pop up in the search terms, from people pasting things into the wrong address bar or hitting the wrong thing on the context menu or using Google Translate to bypass web filters (I don't know if it still works, but you used to be able to use GTrans as a slapdash US proxy by asking it to translate your forbidden URL from English to English) or just not having a really great grasp of how these new interweb tube thingies work. They're largely from articles other people have linked to directly -- almost never for the main page.

The part I find surprising is that people are now finding me by searching on "arabella flynn" with or without "unsolicited advice" or some particularly caterwampus turn of phrase I used in an essay. That means they found out about me some way other than a direct link to my blog and have to Google for it, or they've read something in the past, can't recall the URL, and are putting in all the parts they remember in order to find it again. I know exactly why they remember my writing -- I write both very well and very weird, with a strangely hybrid AmE/BrE voice, an unusual combination -- but for some reason it slipped my mind that people use my name for anything other than recognizing, say, who posted the random comments on their blog.

This might be a bit easier to understand if you realize that in my daily life, almost no one uses my actual name. Either I'm already paying enough attention to know what they want, making calling my name to get it redundant, or whoever I'm with is one of the people who knows me largely by my net.nick, and they call me that. I was right pissed at having to give up the old one because it was so widely known that it was what the people I actually physically lived with shouted in order to summon me from the other side of a closed door. At one point, I had a professor doing it. (An anthropology project class with an extensive online segment where we got to choose our own handles. Long story. I'll tell it someday. It involves DragonMUD and the cow level in Diablo and getting Moggie shitfaced drunk on a Navy base in California.) It's less of problem here, but my given name also happens to sound like a common-ish boys name in the Arizona/SoCal local accent, so half the time even when someone did bother to use the name on my birth certificate, I wouldn't respond because I didn't realize it was for me.

With rare exceptions, people who routinely address me by the thing on my birth certificate are teachers, bosses, family, and people with whom I am in very serious trouble. So it's nice to be looked for under a name that gets me a lot more nice email than scary yelling rants and wanting to know where my term paper is.

Comments

  1. I'm one of those who uses "Arabella Flynn" in Google to find you. I came at you via Google Plus, so the name is the natural tag.

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  2. Random note: I was flicking through photos of Friends on FB with m'colleague present, and she remarked on one of your modeling pics (in her charming vaguely Wisconsin-ite accent), "Oh, she's cute." I belied the pseudonym at the head of the page and referred to you as "Ari" (rhyming with "starry"), and she said, "She looks like an Ari." So it passes muster, if you were to use it more widely.

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    Replies
    1. My brain is pretty well-keyed to the Arabella Flynn ID at this point. I'll respond to "Arry" or "Airy"; technically it's written-only right now, although with the Awkwardeers that's starting to change. Moggie occasionally uses my real name in IMs, but then, Moggie isn't her real name either, and she also responds to things like おにゃんこちゃん and 小猫 and SideKIIIIIIIIICK! in real life, on top of variations of her actual name and quotations like WATSON, COME HERE, I WANT YOU.

      (Not Holmes related, strangely enough. Thomas A. Watson was the name of one of Alexander Graham Bell's aides, and the story -- probably apocryphal -- goes that Bell inadvertently made the first successful test of the telephone shouting at his assistant after spilling acid on his trousers.)

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    2. Also, "m'colleague" reminds me to go watch more things with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in them.

      In one of Fry's books there's a photo of the two of them playing chess in someone's room at Cambridge. They both look like twelve. It's very cute.

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