What does It Mean to Vanity Search?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

A vanity search may be more commonly known as ego surfing. This is a term that may have been coined by Internet mogul, Sean Carton. When you vanity search, you are essentially using a search engine to look up yourself. Other names for this practice include self-googling, googling yourself, ego searching or autogoogling. These names reference the common practice of using Google to perform this search.

Using a search engine to look up yourself would be considered a vanity search.
Using a search engine to look up yourself would be considered a vanity search.

If you’re new to the Internet, it can be interesting to vanity search, to see if anyone knows who you are. Of course, what you may see at first is a lot of people who have the same name as you. Once you start to blog, post, or put information up on places like Facebook, a vanity search may reveal more pages that refer to you.

Sometimes the term is used derogatively to describe those people who are obsessed with seeing their names pull up on a search engine. If your name ends up with thousands of results, it can be a boost to ego, hence the term ego surfing. It can raise your self-esteem when other people write about you, cite your work, or give links to your work.

However, there may be some other reasons to vanity search. First, the Internet is unfortunately a place where a lot of theft of original material occurs. Sometimes this theft is extremely incautious. People may lift something you’ve written and still credit you for it, but they may be violating copyright or terms of use of a blog you write. You can contact these people and ask them to stop using your work, or you can make arrangements with them that may be profitable to you. Theft is not always ill intended, and some people just don’t realize they’re affecting profits or violating copyright laws, when they use your work without your permission.

Another reason why some people vanity search is to find out if people are reporting untrue things about them, or saying unkind things. This may most be applicable to people who are well known, either for some reason in the Internet community or offline in some celebrity fashion. When hurtful things are written about a person, or moreover inaccurate things, it may be possible to change this by commenting on someone’s website. You can correct false reports though you may not be able to do much about vicious attacks that are opinion based.

A great number of people may occasionally vanity search just for the fun of it. It’s generally a harmless activity. Given the vast information available online, searching your own name and coming up with results that have nothing to do with you may be a check to vanity rather than encouraging it.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent EasyTechJunkie contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


@clintflint - In some cases I think it's actually a good idea to do this though. People have done all kinds of malicious things online, including posting images they shouldn't or saying things they shouldn't and it's better to know what is being said than to live in ignorance and maybe get burned later on.


@KoiwiGal - That's actually a really easy line to cross, unfortunately and I know I've done it. Usually I think a real vanity search isn't necessarily going to be for your name, but for the names of the people around you so you can figure out what they've been saying about you in private.

I remember when I was a teenager all my friends were into LiveJournal and would write stuff about our classroom all the time and I was constantly surfing around trying to see if anyone had mentioned me.

I try not to let myself get that interested in it these days and mostly you don't find anything interesting anyway, but I know it can be difficult to resist the temptation.


If you've got a valid reason to need to know if your name comes up online, then I would suggest signing up for a notification system that will let you know when it happens without your having to search for it. Whenever I put up unique articles online that I don't want people to steal, I will use a fragment of the text in the same way, so I will get a notification if someone else posts it online.

I think it's only really a vanity search if you are constantly looking yourself up to see what people think of you.

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