Which means that for the innocent, one single defaming blog post can turn a life upside down. Ex-boyfriends are notorious for online revenge stunts; so are disgruntled employees. Here's what I'm trying to say — and you might want to sit down for this: not everything written on the Internet is true. Hell, forget about the falsehoods I've written about other people online — I'm responsible for spreading lies about myself. Sure, I'm a porn writer: but what about you? The laws regulating what people can and can't write on the Internet are flimsy and unenforceable. Don't think so? Go ahead, try suing the anonymous dipshit who edited your Wikipedia page.
Once I realized that I could never fully expunge my feral reputation by simply packing up my life and coming home to Boston, I had a decision to make. I could leave my past out there, in the google-able wilds, and resign myself to a life of torrid infamy. Or I could try to learn how to downplay certain credentials beforehand, at least when I knew someone would be looking at them.
There's a growing industry in de-googling yourself; for about $100 per year, sites like reputationdefender.com claim to be able to "control the message people see when they google you" and "[push] undesirable content down in search results." For those with just a few brutal mistakes to live down, it's worth it. But this doesn't always work: legitimate news sites won't remove an old story just because it embarrasses you, and good luck trying to get a porn-tube site to stop streaming your amateur sex tape. (Newsflash: letting your new boy-toy tape your wild escapades might not be the best look if you're one day hoping to become a US senator.)
Removing your name from Google searches is an option for some, though not for me. I've been blogging since 2002, and there are thousands of links to my repellent ramblings that would take a decade to track down. My only hope against Google's tattletales, the experts tell me, is to replace the ugly stuff at the top of my Google Search with new and positive online chatter
Like my year-old Web-based dog magazine, massarf.com.
You may think I'm kidding. But the links from celebrity gossip sites that used to point to Kristin Davis blowjob pics now redirect you to a page that celebrates the "Top Shelter Dogs," and a slideshow of New England Patriots cheerleaders soaping up pups in a benefit for the MSPCA. It's the start of my very long, very slow battle against the Internet — one that I realize I may never win.
Google is no friend of the despondent. I should know. When there's a potage of juicy tidbits about you swimming free in cyberspace, learning to fight it becomes second nature. In the meantime, a suggestion: pre-emptively announce a brief, carefully plotted — yet honest! — rundown of your mishaps to any prospective love interest or potential boss. It probably won't steer them away from digging deeper into your past than you'd like, but it beats the "You were married to a what?" look when you get back from the pisser. And don't be shocked to find that your search results are permanent deal-killers — that article about your scandalous run-in with a transsexual is a tough one to hide from Google's ever-prying eye, no matter how much money you have or how many posts you contribute to Jesus Web sites.
So here's my second suggestion: never use your real name. Ever.
Scott Fayner lives in Boston and runs the Web site massarf.com with his dogs Rib-Eye and La Bella. He still occasionally writes for Hustler, but you probably knew that by now. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.