Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge
“Most people are posting pics of them from the begining [sic] of the decade in order to show how far they’ve progressed in life. If you find that boring, how about using Google’s servers to find out what you were EXACTLY THINKING 10 years ago?”
That’s what a Reddit user suggested in r/LifeProTips earlier today — so I figured I’d give it a go. Who wouldn’t enjoy taking a creepy trip down memory lane with Google along for the ride?
I popped over to Google’s My Activity page, and hit the + button to filter down so I was only looking at activity before February 2010. Looks like I didn’t actually use Google on New Year’s Day, or every day at all for that matter — clearly, I wasn’t as addicted to my phone back then. Which phone was I using? Probably an original Motorola Droid, seeing how I was eagerly reading about how modders had managed to overclock its chip to over 1GHz.
Why was I searching for Google Maps directions to specific addresses in Brisbane and South San Francisco? Oh, that’s right, I was between jobs and desperately interviewing at every video game publication I could. All of those directions are to and from my parents’ old address, because of course I was still living at home. Not things I necessarily would have wanted people to know.
And why was I searching for photo print shops in San Jose? It must have been the year my mom gave me her old Minolta camera for Christmas. My searches for an “integra zc” engine and “intrax lowering springs” really take me back — I was still trying to soup up my orange-y red 1989 Acura Integra with the pop-up headlights I dearly loved. And clearly I was dreaming up a new rebuild of my gaming PC, given all the graphics cards I was searching for.
A nostalgia trip that gives you pause
Oh, here’s the restaurant I reserved for my girlfriend (not yet fiancee or wife)’s surprise birthday party, and the gift I remember buying her. And the other gift I didn’t, too. Did I send a letter to a friend in Japan, years after I studied there? I can’t remember, but I definitely searched for a Japanese envelope and a specific Japanese address to mail it to.
And here’s the embarrassing medical condition I searched for, because I had it — though I suppose Google couldn’t have known that. I hope.
Some of the other burning questions in my much younger mind: was it a can of coke or a can of beer that Dr. Brown poured into the Mr. Fusion in Back to the Future Part II? And could I fry french fries at home? It’s not what I was “exactly thinking 10 years ago”, but I’m definitely getting a clearer picture of the person I used to be back then.
My hand is hovering over the delete button now, but I’m hesitating. No, I’ve decided — I’m not going to do it quite yet. Even though I’m sure that Google “knows” far more than I’d like, I’m not ready to delete perhaps one of the most comprehensive pictures I have of my recent past. Besides, I’ve already accepted that privacy is an illusion, and I bet Google would find ways to target me with ads even if I wiped this cache of data out.
But if you feel differently after you have a look, you’ve got the power to nuke it all. And here are a few other links that might help.