People are hiding from me! On purpose! In 2012, when all info is supposed to be easily accessible!

Yes, we live in amazing times, even though we still don’t have flying cars.

Michael Rodgers is NOT hiding.

Just one example, from today, of the sort of miracle we take for granted, but which would have sounded like the wildest sort of science fiction back in, say, 1987 — the year I came to Columbia to become governmental affairs editor.

We were kicking around an idea for a TV commercial for a potential client, and suddenly I had a sort of half-memory of having seen an ad, long ago, that did something familiar. I whipped my iPhone from its holster (and if I wanted so see Cleavon Little say, “Just let me whip dis out” in “Blazing Saddles” within a few seconds, I’d do the same), and found a reference to the ad I was thinking of within 30 seconds. Within another 30 — still using my phone (my own  personal phone that goes everywhere I go, which was conceivable in 1987 but still fantastic) — I was watching that ad on YouTube. An ad that last ran in — get ready for it — 1987.

If, in 1987, I had wanted to find out about an ad from 1962, I would have had to spend half the day or more at the library, and whether I even found a reference to it would depend on some pretty tedious guesswork with a periodicals index, and I would have to cross my fingers for a miracle hoping that the library stocked that particular publication, and kept them going back 25 years.

Kathryn Fenner is NOT hiding.

As for actually seeing the ad, without a trip to New York or L.A. and a pretty tedious search once I got there — well, I would have been s__t out of luck, to use the technical term. Oh, maybe if I reached the right person on the phone in one of those places, and they were willing to make me a VHS tape and mail it to me, I might get to see it within a week. But it would have been iffy at best.

Anyway, I say all this to express my appreciation for all the things we can so easily find and experience now, right at our fingertips.

But this post is about the things we can’t, and how frustrating that is.

Phillip Bush is NOT hiding.

Today, the very day of the 1987 ad miracle, I was looking for a mug shot for my contacts list. You know how Google Contacts and iPhones and even Blackberries and Palms allow you to attach a picture of a person to their contact info? Well, I try to take advantage of that whenever I create a new contact. It usually only takes a few seconds. (It took me maybe a minute total to find the four mugs you see here, using Google Images.) I do this because I’m terrible at keeping names and faces straight — I know, or sorta know, too many people for that. By having this feature in widely used software, we are encouraged to do this. It’s normal. (If you had tried it in 1962 — the way the dwarf character did to Mel Gibson’s character in “The Year of Living Dangerously,” keeping a dossier on him and other friends — it would have creeped people out.)

For instance, if you Google me, you get a lot of pictures that are not me, but just people associated with me, but in the first couple of pages of results, there are about 17 images of yours truly. That’s high, on account of my blog and my long association with the newspaper, but not all that high. I get similar results with a lot of people on my contacts list.

But then… every once in a while… there’s someone I can’t find. Sometimes it’s understandable. They are quiet people who work in some private business that doesn’t require a lot of public interaction. But sometimes… it’s like Winston Smith and the gang in 1984 have expunged the person from existence.

Today, it was someone who actually leads a very public organization that advocates on behalf of a very hot local political issue. I had that person’s contact info, from an email, and while I could sort of picture the person in my mind from past interactions, I wanted the crutch of having the mug shot there in case memory failed me at a critical moment.

Doug Ross is NOT hiding.

And I could not find this person anywhere. Eventually, I set my pride aside and tried her Facebook page, which for me is really last-ditch (and feels, even in 2012, even for an unreconstructed journalist, a bit like prying sometimes). And discovered that this was one of those people who not only doesn’t have her own face as her profile picture, but doesn’t have a single image in which she appears among any of her Facebook photos.

At which point I started hearing that little dee-dee-DEE-dee music from “The Twilight Zone.”

Yeah, I realize, some people are just private, as anachronistic as that is in 2012. But I don’t see how a person who is heavily involved in the community manages to disappear so completely.

Thoughts about this? Does this happen to you? Does it drive you nuts? It does me. Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does. Information is normally so extremely accessible, that when it isn’t, it just seems wrong

13 thoughts on “People are hiding from me! On purpose! In 2012, when all info is supposed to be easily accessible!

  1. Steven Davis II

    Fascinating. 1000 words that state your iPhone is cool and some people don’t use FaceBook.

    I work in IT, yet I refuse to use FaceBook, LinkedIn, Tweet, etc… If I can’t reach you by phone, e-mail, text, or Skype I’ll send a letter or fax. I don’t need to “friend” people I couldn’t stand 30 years ago or have an ego that needs to notify followers of my every movement.

  2. Burl Burlingame

    On the other hand, when interviewing people I don’t know over the phone, I’d call up their image on the computer so I could associate a voice with a face.

  3. Michael Rodgers

    Why are there pictures of me, Kathryn, Phillip and Doug here in this post? We all do the opposite of hide from you.

  4. Brad

    Because I thought it was a good way of demonstrating how easy it is to find MOST people. Of course, I guess I sort of cheated, picking four people who had been pictured here before.

    You don’t mind, do you?

  5. Brad

    Hmmm. Mrs. Silence is not to be found, and Mr. Silence looks like Dr. Evil… No, wait — Donald Pleasance…

    Burl, I know what you mean. I’d drive over to the next county to see a source rather than do it over the phone. Of course, the mileage money was an added bonus…

  6. Michael Rodgers

    Yes you cheated, and not only that, your demonstration via irony/sarcasm only works for those in on the joke. To some new reader of the blog it appears as though you’ve been looking for me and I’ve been hiding, neither of which is true. And it’s all the more ridiculous because the most tedious aspect of your blog is the enormous volume of posts by anonymous posters.

  7. Kathryn Fenner

    I feel ripped off. I thought you and Phillip had a tiff, based on the thumbnail and the hede on Facebook. You could have a future in the tabloids!

  8. Brad

    OK, I tried to clarify. I added “…is NOT hiding” to the cutlines under all those mugs.

    Maybe I’ll add an editor’s note at the top, too…

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