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Google Autofill Searches: Singlist, But Not Super Singlist June 11, 2020

Posted by Onely in Everyday Happenings, Look What Google Barfed Up.
Tags: , , ,

Do Google’s autofill searches reflect our culture’s obsession with dating and marriage? I googled the funny and insightful authors Tenaya Darlington and Samantha Irby because their names had come up in a writing retreat I was attending, and I wanted to choose some of their books.  For Darlington, two of the six top Google autofill searches were related to her marital status:

Tenaya Darlington husband and Tenaya Darlington married.

For Irby, the second Google autofill was Samantha Irby wife. The rest were related to Irby’s and Darlington’s work. Because I make my living complaining about singlism,* I immediately thought, “Does this mean literary Googlers are disproportionally interested in the love lives of authors, at the expense of those author’s hard writing work?” The answer, of course, is yes. We are all disproportionally interested in the love lives of people in the public eye (tell me you don’t dawdle in line at CVS to finish reading the headlines about Brad and Jennifer). We’ve touched on this topic at Onely before, when we did an in-depth statistical analysis** of how author bios always mention a location and spouse. When I saw the Darlington and Irby autofills, I wondered if another experiment was in order. I needed to know just how far down the autofill rabbithole the literary Googlers’ matrimania went. Would the author’s gender make a difference in whether the autofill searches included references to a spouse? Would their sexual orientation? Would it matter whether the author were dead or alive?  Whether they wrote fiction or nonfiction? Short or long? Prose or poetry?

Before I reveal my startling, totally comprehensive, and in no way ad-hoc discoveries, let’s examine some of the valid, non-matrimaniacal reasons a literary Googler might search for an author in relation to their spouse/partner:

  1. The spouse plays a significant role as a character in the author’s nonfiction work.
  2. The literary Googler may wonder, how did the author get the privilege of having writing time? Were they supported by their partner? Ann Bauer wrote an important article on the underdiscussed topic of writers who are sponsored by their spouses.
  3. N/A

For the experiment, I typed in a selection of writers off the top of my head and noted the autofill options. The result?

Not that many searches tied authors to their spouses. Hooray! 

It seemed my first searches for Irby and Darlington were outliers. The Google autofill matrimania rabbithole was actually short and shallow! When I typed in additional ten writers of varying genders, races, and sexual orientations, I didn’t see a single reference (pun absolutely intended) to relationship status in any of the first four autofills, with one exception. The writers were: Audrey Lorde, Stephen King, Nikki Giovanni, Peter Ho Davies, Toni Morrison, David Sedaris, Joan Didion, Maxine Hong Kingston, Italo Calvino, and Lorrie Moore. The one instance of an autofill pertaining to romantic-relationship-status was the fourth option under David Sedaris. Apparently fans have been typing in “David Sedaris Hugh.” Hugh is/was Sedaris’ longtime  partner who features prominently in Sedaris’ material. So, that’s ok. And full disclosure, I have only recently started to read Samantha Irby, so I don’t know if one of Irby’s main characters is her wife. This is assuming Irby even has a wife; I can’t google this factoid because then I’d be contributing to the matrimaniacal autofill clicks. Wouldn’t I? Another full disclosure: I have no idea how the autofill searches actually work and was really just looking for an excuse to google stuff instead of paying my taxes.

Copious Readers, what comes up in the autofill suggestions for your favorite writers?


*This is not true. I’ve made a total of $100 complaining about singlism at Atlantic online, and I had to split that with my co-author Lisa.

**It was neither in-depth, nor statistical.

Photo credit: Marten Newhall




1. Caroline Campbell - June 12, 2020

You good writer! Nice words used. Me is like!

Sent from my iPhone


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