A couple weeks back, I was hunting for the keys to the familial house, hoping that I could make my surprise appearance back to the midwest even more so by just showing up in the house. I never found those keys, but as I was digging I came across my old yearbooks from a time when I actually attended school; kindergarten through second grade, to be exact.
As I scanned the names of my old classmates, thoroughly surprised at just how many of them I had forgotten, I thought it would be fun to do a little experiment: see which ones I could track down online with any degree of confidence. Having gone to a rather expensive, private school, there were many kids of some affluence, so I assumed that quite a few of them would turn up. My thinking there being that they'd all have gone to college and made something of themselves.
My method of performing this search was rather simple: open a private window in Chrome (to avoid any "social" cookies set in my normal browsing session), and search '"first last" oklahoma'. Some leads or additional information I knew would sometimes make me change this query, but it nearly always started there. Once I'd perused no more than three pages of search results, I would rank them on my confidence that I had found a person and how prominent or easily they showed up in the search. These were ranked from low to confirmed. I also tried to note where I found them, what they were doing, and any personal remarks that came to mind. I used my second grade class as the data pool, a total of 28 "kids".
The results are almost entirely not what I expected at all. People I expected to appear easily (due to their prominence in school and/or highly specific names) were nowhere to be found, while people I barely remember existing were quite prominent. A lot can happen in twenty years, I suppose. But number break downs:
Confirmed - 18%, 5 people
High - 21%, 6 people
Medium - 4%, 1 person
Low - 54%, 15 people
"Doesn't Exist" - 4%, 1 person
My math is off on those percentages, but whatever. By and far, the most common place to find people was on LinkedIn. When you think about it, this makes sense as a person is more likely to use their real name on a place that's for professional networking. Also, LinkedIn is more public to search engines than, say, Facebook. Seven LinkedIn profiles I found, compared to two Facebook and one Google+ account.
Some of the notes I took (removing the names to protect the innocent):
Female - lawyer, works in Tulsa on 1st street (literally, about two blocks from my old employer)
Female - works for Phillips, just got married
Male - politics, got handsome
Matt Hackmann - https://www.tlcvision.com/lasik-reviews-and-news/685/ (this has got to be my greatest search result ever)
Male - web developer, super hairy
Female - doesn't like commas
Male - animator
Female - may have written a review for Polgara the Sorceress
Female - possible felon
Female - possibly getting married
Yes, I tossed myself in the list to see how well I would turn up in my search terms. Not the greatest, when you see that the search results are stuffed with white pages type results, and not even well enough to mark myself as confirmed as I couldn't place myself as having lived in Bartlesville.
That evening, I also found the phone number for an old crush I had at Walmart. I kind of want to use my Grand Central account to text her something creepy (If you are who I think you are, I know you and you know me... or at least, we once did...)
But we all know I can't approach women.