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Most, but not all of us, Google ourselves

Sep. 27, 2013 at 5:34 PM ET

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Only 56 percent of us Google our names to check if anything is being said about us, or if our names are being misused in any way.

Such "egosurfing" is almost a necessity in an era of social media with sites like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, according to the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project. The organization surveyed Americans in April and May, and released the findings Friday to coincide with Google's 15th birthday.

Back in 2001, about one in five of us took the time to Google ourselves to see what was being said or posted about us online, Pew said. Of course, 2001 was before those sites were created; people were just getting used to doing online shopping, much less online schmoozing to the degree they do now.

By 2009, Pew says, 57 percent of Internet users said they searched for their names online. Four years later, the percentage is down, slightly. 

Self-Googling isn't just about feeding the ego. Many of us know that doing a Google search, or using other search engines, to look up our own names can be as essential as regular teeth cleanings. It's important to check periodically just to see that no funny business is going on out there with your name on the Interwebz.

"Despite significant increases in personal information sharing through social media and other channels, there has been little recent change in this activity," writes Mary Madden, Pew senior researcher. Pew estimates that 72 percent of online Americans use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

Generally, it's younger adults who take the time to check themselves out online.

"Adults under the age of 50 are more likely than older adults to monitor their digital footprints," Madden writes. " And those with higher levels of education and household income (who tend to have jobs that require online reputation monitoring) are among the most likely to self-search."

Aside from using Google or other search engines, 24 percent of Internet users say they have used social media sites, online directories and other websites or Internet services to look up their name to see what info is out there. That number is up "only slightly from the 20 percent who reported doing so in 2009," Madden writes.

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