Very disagreeable day lately when I got a bee in my bonnet about Google. In the past year, this icky-looking man popped up there, petitioning to join my “Google Circle,” whatever that is, and adding me to his circle, so that quite often I bump into his picture when I’m doing something in Google, and it is highly irritating: who is this person and why do I have to see him all the time?
I looked for the instructions for getting out of someone’s group, but there aren’t any. Google feels it isn’t hurting me to be in his group, and so I’m stuck there forever, but I agree with the online commenter who observed, regarding this specifically, “If you don't want an association with somebody then it’s your right.” That is true, or should be.
Now that Google (which owns Blogger and YouTube and probably soon Ford and Bank of America) is starting to seem like some kind of malign force, taking things I like (my blog and looking stuff up) and things I don’t (the icky-looking man and the fact that every time I go to Google, an icon shows that I have an unread “notification,” but when I click on it, nothing happens) and mixing them all together as if with superglue, I decided it was time to get Google out of my life, as much as possible, by taking down my one YouTube video, and removing the (very nice!) photo of myself that I attached to my Google profile in a weak moment. The photo was taken three weeks before Carlos fell ill. I was utterly happy. I was walking with Lesley at Crissy Field. The sun was shining on my face and the bay was behind me.
Of course these simple tasks ended up being immensely frustrating. Typically, Google says something like, “If you want to do such-and-such, go here,” which is perfectly clear. Oh, good: the instructions are going to be right there! But when you get there, either there is no sign of the topic of interest or the instructions don’t match reality.
On some websites, the second you arrive, someone offers to engage you in a live chat. On others, if you make your way through their whole array of support-related offerings and are still stuck, an email form is provided or even a phone number, but not at Google. Their list of possible problems is short (like, “Do you have a painful goiter or do you wish to clean your low-flow showerhead? Neither of those? Oh, well, guess we can’t help!”) and you soon arrive at a dead end, where you get to fill out a form rating their “service,” at the bottom of which it says something like, “We’re sorry we’re unable to help you directly.” This means, “We’re way, way too massive to provide actual customer service, but that’s fine (with us).”
But this is overlooking the key point that we're not Google's customers. People who buy ads are their customers, and information pertaining to us is the product for sale: what we search for using Google, what YouTube videos we put up or watch, what we write in our blogs, the contents of our Gmails, and probably much, much else. People who place ads can probably telephone someone at Google anytime they want.
When I went to remove my YouTube video (which is of me singing to my mother on Mother’s Day), I first had to attach my YouTube channel to my Google account, or something or other, and there was no way to proceed without doing that. I considered deleting my whole YouTube account, but that would have also removed my Google account, and, therefore, my blog. So I upgraded my channel and then it of course claimed my upgraded channel didn’t have any videos associated with it and I feared the video was permanently stuck in limbo, but eventually I got rid of it; can’t remember how.
You used to have your bicycle and your spatula and your radio and you could easily see what was where, and you could decide to throw out your spatula without damaging your radio, or you could give away your radio without causing your bicycle to have a flat tire, but now so much that we deal with every day is invisible and connected in ways we’re unaware of or that are exceedingly unhelpful. Why should deleting my YouTube account cause my blog to disappear? It shouldn’t, any more than moving my dictionary should cause me to run out of Lemonaise Light. But it’s all one big snarled rat's nest now.
The next project was to remove my photo from my Google profile, also not an easy task, and by then, I was bound and determined to get my blog out from under Google. I called Dotster, where my domain name is registered and bought three years of web hosting from them, but then discovered that Dotster gets very poor reviews for its web hosting services, and also, there’s not much point in moving my blog off Blogger, because Google, along with the NSA, has probably helped itself to every bit of data on my computer already, so what’s the point? It’s also one of those projects I would never actually get around to.
At some point, I was encouraging my parents to comment on my blog (so that anyone whatsoever would be commenting on my blog) and told my father that one way would be to have a Google account. He was reluctant to sign up for one, and at the time, though I wasn’t at all offended, I thought he was being too careful, that a Google account was entirely benign, but how right he was. A Google account eventually tries to suck your whole online life down its voracious maw.
I called Dotster back and was relieved to find I could cancel the web hosting order, but there was some sort of miscommunication and they thought I wanted to cancel my entire domain name, which I certainly didn’t. It was stressful, but I hadn’t forgotten what happened when I lost my temper with the phone company, so I kept calm. Also, there mostly isn’t anyone to lose my temper with these days. The only way I'm ever going to speak to anyone at Google, let alone lose my temper with him or her, is if I step out to Valencia St. and throw myself down in front of a moving Google bus.