Once upon a time Google was a great way to “surf the web.” Do you remember that term? It meant going from topic to topic on the World Wide Web, using a slow modem connection. In those distant days, only about 15 years ago, the World Wide Web was an intriguing buffet of mostly informational websites.
Now, thanks to the monopoly power of Google, the web consists of a sales and marketing system combined with loss of privacy and unfortunately a system designed to reduce our ability to think clearly.
First, let us start with marketing. A Google search means that you will be stalked by ads for any product that you may have included in a search. If you want to test this, search for something odd, like a unicycle, and see how your ad feed begins to feature unicycles. If you want to have fun with some non-LSU fans borrow their cell phones and search for LSU memorabilia. The Tigers will haunt them for months.
The reason this is relevant is that Google distills millions of web pages into 10 results with the top of the page covered with paid ads. This relentless focus on sales tends to push folks to buy more than they need because the search engine continues to create demand for products that you probably don’t need and would not have seen without their relentless sales focus. This distillation of search results is also harmful to small businesses, since they cannot afford to pay for top placement and their small size means that search will relegate them to the back pages.
Another reason to beware of Google is that they harvest a vast trove of personal information from your searches. If you dig into your Google profile, you will find that your search history, location, travels and purchases have all been recorded. This information is then sold to advertisers so that they can target you with their promotions. Unfortunately, Google gets to sell your information and you don’t get a share in the profits.
A good way to avoid this is to switch search engines periodically and to clear your search history from Google. One of my favorite alternate search engines is Duckduckgo. This search engine doesn’t sell your personal information and keeps your search confidential. Another option is Bing. It is the second largest search engine and provides valuable competition to Google. If you are doing an actual information search and not looking to buy anything, consider wolframalpha. This engine actually answers your question, rather than sending you to a website. Another search engine that respects your privacy is QWANT. For your own peace of mind, please consider trying these options.
Finally, the monopoly search engine feeds more similar views to your search. This leads to isolation and tends to send you links that are in line with those you may have supported in the past. This can lead to a single-minded worldview. In order to have critical thinking, you need to switch search engines because out of all the millions of pages of information available, Google only sends you a small sample size of pages that match your pre-existing views.
So, in order to avoid constant sales pitches, a loss of privacy and a shrunken world view, turn off Google and try some of the other options that are not so focused upon selling to you and selling your personal information. This will reopen the World Wide Web for you and may even save you money because your exposure to marketing will be limited.
In reference to my headline, according to legislation adopted by the European Union, Google is not considered to be a search engine.