The Search for Google: A Commentary on Social Media in our Lives

The Search For Google (Mt. Rushmore Road Show)

Ever notice how pervasive the internet is in our daily lives? And how one can lose track of time for hours with a single web search? A recent example: Halloween Trick or Treating. An age old American childhood tradition. It started out innocently enough.  I simply asked my son, “What do you think about dressing up as Abraham Lincoln for Halloween?” He is studying American history in Social Studies class so I thought this would be a respectable Halloween character, avoiding commercialized blockbuster movie or pop culture idols. I thought I would dress up as George Washington, his friends could dress up as Thomas Jefferson and Teddy Roosevelt and we could have a Mount Rushmore Road Show. This did not go over big with my son.  He looked at me, rolled his eyes and said nothing. I was worried he might be on Facebook “blocking” me or placing an ad on Craig’s List, “For Sale, One Lame Mom. Rants against energy drinks.  Eats brown rice. Still uses whole sentences to text. Takes notes at Parent-Teacher conferences. No, It’s NOT OK to contact me with other services, products or commercial interests.” I checked Angie’s List and became concerned when I was not listed as a preferred vender (mother).

Later that day my son used the most common type of adolescent communication: he texted, “Mom Please don’t embarrass me in public.” (At least he said please.) I texted back “How about dressing up like Facebook?” “OMG LOL!” was his immediate reply.

I thought that maybe his mind, like the American advertising community, had already moved past Halloween onto the more important Christmas shopping season, which starts directly after Back to School shopping season (I am still trying to figure what to do with those ten protractors for $20* I bought in the Back to School Specials frenzy). But no, he then emailed, “I think I’d like to dress up as a Google toolbar.” And so started the search for Google. 

Of course, being internet savvy, he went directly to Wikipedia. When I moved to the United States from India at age five, one of my most prized possessions was a complete set of the Encyclopedia Britannica. It took my parents a long time to save up enough money to buy me a set. In fact, I have kept it until this day to peruse on those late nights when I don’t get 300 emails, 30 email newsletters from mailchimp or a notice urging me, “Read about Dr. Extraordinarily Smarter and More Accomplished than You and On the Verge of Winning a Nobel Prize’s updates on LinkedIn!” 

Today, it’s easier to search the internet than the Encyclopedia Britannica. So naturally we went to YouTube (My son on an I Pad, me on my IPhone) and searched, “How to dress up like Google toolbar. The search returned “Bert & Ernie try Gangsta-Rap.” We moved on to eBay. We put in a couple of bids for Einstein wigs after examining the complete 360 degree view of the hair.  Next we put up for sale 10 protractors, shipping included anywhere in the continental United States.

We even did an advanced search on Amazon (who was kind enough to offer me some suggestions of similar items that I might be interested in buying). I saved a couple of protractors (on sale for a mere 10 for $5 with $10 shipping!) on my Wish List and emailed the list to my relatives for Christmas present suggestions.  All courtesy of those helpful folks at Amazon.

We did a general search on “Healthy Halloween ideas” and were encouraged by advertisers to “Come on over to the dark side with dark chocolate mini candy bars.” The manufacturer told us that there was 1 gram of fiber per 5 mini chocolate bars. That means we only have to eat 150 mini candy bars to get the recommended daily intake of fiber.  After reading the label, my son thought the candy bars were practically a health food and plans on substituting them for broccoli! I find it annoying that manufacturers have jumped on the dark chocolate bandwagon (Fortunately they are interested in our health, not in their sales), trying to convince consumers that candy (of course when consumed “in moderation”) can be part of a sensible diet!

The manufacturer of this candy bar was even kind enough to provide a fascinating article on theobromine, “a compound closely related to caffeine that only has a mild stimulatory effect on the central nervous system.”  They told us, “Preliminary research indicates that even relatively high levels of theobromine does not interfere with attention or mood.”  For our further education, we find out that dogs metabolize theobromine very slowly and it “carries the same risk to dogs as coffee, tea, cola beverages and certain houseplants.”  I bet that piece of useful information was never included in the Encyclopedia Britannica! 

Of course I had to post that article on my Facebook wall so that everyone interested could “Like” theobromine! And I certainly could not leave Facebook (Keep me logged on, Check) without contacting the 5 friends with birthdays this month, see status updates on 22 friends, no lie, play a couple of games of word scramble,  learn how to make gazpacho from Bobby Flay (He might be traveling to my hometown for a Throwdown and I better be prepared!),  print out a couple of coupons for more protractors, start a new game of solitaire (advanced hand), say “maybe” to the 18 events I was invited to by people I’m not sure I know,  “Like” the 400th “Baby’s first steps” pictures of someone I don’t recognize (Baby’s Mom, who I don’t actually know, asked to “Friend” me on Facebook and I agreed, since one has to exceed 7 friends on Facebook in order to well, Save Face) and whew, I am exhausted!

I told my son we HAD to get off the internet because we had exceeded the two hour daily limit of screen time recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. But not before we found websites to buy skull and crossbones ice cube trays, sour flush toilet candy, toxic waste candy, tongue tattoos, zombie blood energy drink, and a ketchup packet baby costume.

I thought idly about “quickly” checking behind the scenes photographs of Lindsay Lohan’s  first day of community service as a morgue janitor (CNN Entertainment informed me that “Thursday was suppose to be Lohan’s first day of work as a morgue janitor, but she was sent away after showing up late for the morning’s orientation. Her publicist blamed her tardiness on a combination of not knowing what entrance to go through and confusion caused by the media waiting for her arrival.”) As an act of good citizenship, I recommended this on Facebook (along with 586 other people!) as well as shared it on Twitter. 

Next I had to check what those down to Earth Housewives of Beverly Hills are up to on their behind the scenes blog (shopping, shopping, nails, hair, shopping, Spa, shopping, restaurants, shopping).  Learn about the newest medical breakthroughs on “The Doctors” (Who needs Mayo Clinic Proceedings?), Check. Let’s see what Mayo Clinic Center for Social Media, Deepak Chopra, KevinMD and Dr. Oz are tweeting about (dark chocolate) and we’ll call it a night.

Fortunately, I am pleased to report that my son did not dress up like Tron, Harry Potter (Ok, I admit that’s who he was last year), Charlie Sheen, any vampire from Twilight, Jack Sparrow (SO last year) or an IPad 2. (Why dress up as an IPad 2 when one only has to enter 5 or 6 thousand internet advertising contests in order to have a “chance” to win one?)  He also nixed the Mt. Rushmore Road Show mother-son bonding idea (South Dakota or bust!) as well as, ultimately, the Google toolbar costume (If it’s not found on YouTube it can’t be worth making). I tweeted to the world @VeeMD “My son is dressing up as a Mad Scientist for Halloween and I am dressing up as a Petri dish.” (Less than140 characters.)

*when bought with qualifying $50 minimum purchase

Updated on October 30, 2011 by Dr. Vee