Self-Googling Is Hygiene

I say it as a kind of joke, but it’s true: Self-Googling in the age of the internet is one of the most important things you can do in public life. The idea of the writer as a vain creature googling for mentions of their name is a familiar one, but you do have to watch out for being undermined by how your work is represented and used.

A few hours ago I decided to look through my Wikipedia entries and discovered a long, somewhat rambling and occasionally disturbing summary of my first novel that had oddly prurient characterizations to it and then also some political ones. I was sad and shocked to discover this description of my novel had been up for at least two years.

I met an editor when I began misguidedly trying to edit it myself, at first out of outrage—I didn’t begin in a thoughtful way. My “corrections” were undone in moments by a firm but friendly editor there, who then contacted me to ask why I was making these changes. I then began the series of conversations that led to the confirmation of my identity, and supplying her with relevant materials that helped her to address the issue. She has said she wants to read the novel now as well. While I was initially frustrated at the way I was unable to make these changes myself, once I’d calmed down I had the sense to see why this wouldn’t be good for me or the novel, and when I addressed the issue through the channels the editor provided, the offending version came off.

It’s one thing for a book’s entry to issue plot spoilers, it’s quite another when it includes a wandering series of overly-articulated points on the novel’s events that misapprehend them. To be clear, I have no objection to legitimate critical work on my novels and no desire to interfere with interpretations. I do have a strenuous objection to a misrepresentation of its content in a forum meant to act as a reference guide.

If you have this problem, my suggestion to you is to create a User profile and then to go to the Questions page, where a series of links can take you to someone who can help you. I’m incredibly grateful to the editor for being so quick to respond, and to Wikipedia, for having a process by which this could be addressed ethically.


  1. I’m sorry–I think I saw that entry and didn’t think to tell u about it. I just found it odd and quickly disregarded it, chalking it up to one of the drawbacks to wikipedia. And then of course, I forgot about it (I don’t even remember the specifics anymore, just that I found it “weird”).

  2. jadepark: Thanks for even being concerned. The thing is, I don’t know who uses Wikipedia. But the larger point is really, if you’re going to publish and be out in the world, regularly check what is being said about you.

  3. How did you go about getting them to fix it? My wikipedia page is riddled with weirdnesses and occasionally self-contradictory inaccuracies, but since you’re not allowed to edit your own page I’ve just been waiting for someone else to fix it and hoping everyone realizes you ought to take wiki-anything — not to mention, everything you read online — with a giant chunk of rock salt …

  4. Emily, I’ve updated my post with a description of how I went about it. I’d say, arm yourself with materials proving what’s wrong and begin submitting your requests through the link above. They really want the site to be accurate and worked very quickly.

  5. I regularly try to clean up Kathy Acker’s Wikipedia entry. (It’s a subject about which I know a great deal). Inevitably even my most factual clarifications get muddled up in time. I suppose there is some Acker fanatic out there who is convinced of their version of her life, but I have no time to go track them down to try to negotiate. I’ll try chasing down the Questions page.

    On the other hand, I do use Wikipedia. I often quite like it as a starting point for getting information. In particular I like the links, though these too are often manipulated.

  6. I tried to wade through the labyrinth – on behalf of another inaccurate entry though not, thankfully, mine – and found it cumbersome. I hope the editor you found is available to others as well. And so glad for the tip!

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