I think it's fair to say that internet search engines have changed how many of us explore social and religious movements. There is now easy access to information on wonderfully quirky subjects. Let the Superbowl viewers have their overproduced commercials and calculated controversy: the net generation doesn't need them. TV viewership among young adults is dropping rapidly. People with websites and blogs are sharing their stories and the search engines are finding them. Here is a taste of the search phrases people are using to find Martin Kelley Quaker Ranter.
A lot of the search phrases are predictable for anyone who reads my blog enough: "modern liberal Quakers":google, "Quaker peace testimony":google, "Quaker decline":google, "Quaker theology":google, "emergent church movement":google and "catholic Quakers":google. By far the most popular searches are for the plain dress page. Every day I get searches for "modest dresses":google, "plain dress":google, "Quaker dress":google, etc. Most Quakers might have long ago dismissed peculiarities like plain dress as relic of the nineteenth century, but a lot of twenty-first century net surfers are curious about this tradition of ours.
Sometimes I get search traffic that is downright bizarre. Who searches for "Its light that makes me uncomfortable?":google (I like it; the Light spoken of by Friends is one that exposes and convicts before it comforts). "I'm going to hire a wino to decorate our home":google is not a tactic I've ever considered (thanks Melynda). I'm apparently a world expert in "insecurities of young people from fashion modeling.":google And if you want to know if "armageddon [is] gods way of getting rid of human race":google I'm the guy to talk to. My Lutheran grandmother will rest easier in her grave knowing that I'm an important figure for "christian young adults":google and a leading voice on "morality in twenty somethings":google, but if all this righteousness gets to you I can also show you how to "beat a dead horse":google.
More in the bizarro "why me?!" file: "baby arm picture":google, "hand wash experiments":google, "liberal protestantism and safe sex":google, "unused cell phone numbers":google. I'm not sure who thinks I know anything about the "statue of liberty holding a guitar":google. "Do amish women wear bras":google?: I don't know.
Some of the phrases are so generic that I marvel that they point here. Are there really so few sites talking about "twenty-somethings":google, even generically? Shouldn't there be lots of mainline Protestants worried about their declining numbers and asking "why are churches dying":google. There ain't much movement to the "emergent church movement":google if I'm the number one hit. I'd be happy to guide visiors to "gay christian websites":google but I'm hardly an expert (or does Google know something about me that I don't?). I've never been asked to give any major "Quaker speeches for peace":google even though Google seems to think it's about time; if you want lighter fare for your conference, I can also give a presentation on "fun things to to do with your Quaker":google.
For the record: I have never met "mel gibson's wife":google, though I do know "Theo`s mom":google quite intimately, having been "married in south jersey":google (want proof? How about some "baby Quaker pictures":google ?). I don't run "the social network for gorillas":google but if I did it stands to reason I'd be something of an authority on the "theology of the planet of the apes":google. If I knew "where thriving young adults can be successful":google, do you think I'd be working for nonprofits?? I'm also afraid I don't have much advice on "how to flatten new sod":google. I do agree that "there were no good old days, these are the good old days":google.
Finally, my favorite search phrase: "baby theo":google. I have at least one Friend that uses this search phrase instead of bookmarking my site (he complained when my Baby Theo page temporarily fell out of first place).
bq. The linked words in this post are a sample of actual phrases that have brought actual visitors to my site from search engines. All of the links are to Google, the most commonly-used search engine, but some of these visitors used other search engines to find my site (which is why I won't necessarily come up when you click the Google link).
* "How crazy am I survey""http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&safe=active&q=HOW%20CRAZY%20AM%20I%20SURVEY (9/2006)