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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.
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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? (more…)

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