I’ve been wanting to do an entire New York Times worthy exposé on panic googling. It’s the pandemic sweeping our anxiety riddled world and taking down the bravest people in its wake, and it’s time it got its five minutes of fame.
There would be gripping story lines, tragic tales of good people losing their way in the darkest catacombs of the internet. It would delve into the complex way that panic googling is creating quick-fix, answer-craving addicts and the dizzying, whirlpool-like cycle they end up in at the start of every anxiety attack.
There’d be a cheesy journalistic tactic to pull at your heart strings in every paragraph, and strategically placed, over the top black and white photo journalistic spreads to tell a story that words simply could not. It would be a work of art so unrivaled by its greatness that some would call it the written word Mona Lisa, or the prose reincarnation of Van Gogh himself.
This will not be that exposé.
In fact, it won’t even come close to that, so don’t get your hopes up. But, it will be my attempt at shedding some light on a subject that is near and dear to my heart… in the same way going to get a shot at the doctors office is near and dear to my heart. Part of life, but not without a lot of unnecessary tears and panic along the way.
Consider this BDIW an article that compares to the time you got really excited for your 11th grade speech project and thought you knocked it out of the park, only to read it the next morning and realize in your caffeine fueled bender you induced to stave off procrastination and exhaustion that you really just wrote a bunch of gibberish.
Yeah, it’ll be a little bit like that.
What Is Panic Googling?
Panic Googling is best defined by that uncontrollable urge to turn to the internet to answer seemingly life threatening questions about our health, food concerns, pet problems, and other concerns.
It’s basically that thing you do when something doesn’t seem right, doesn’t look right, or isn’t going right, and you start to get worried that something could be incredibly wrong with you, your food, your child, your project, etc, so you turn to the internet to help convince you that you are okay, your food is okay, your child is okay, your project is okay, etc.
So basically it’s praying that the internet, that’s filled with trolls and memes and elaborate hoaxes, will some how give us straight forward, no nonsense answers to our greatest worries in the midst of panic.
When Did Panic Googling Begin?
Honestly, I don’t know and if you search “panic googling” on the internet it doesn’t exactly have a timeline of the first documented panic google. Honestly though, it should. Who was the first person to type into the search engine, “does a headache mean I have a brain tumor?” or “my ground beef is kind of grey, is it safe to eat?”
It’s important for us to know these things. I kind of feel like I’ve been panic googling about panic googling recently. Why isn’t there more knowledge for this? WHY CAN’T THE INTERNET SOLVE MY PROBLEMS. But I digress…
My thought would be for as long as the internet has been around, and search engines have been collecting data, there has been panic googling. Prior to the internet, I’d imagine panic googling was probably called panic reading at the library, or talking to a qualified expert on the issues at hand.
Who Panic Googles?
If you can pull up a search engine, type out your question and hit enter, you can panic google. Panic googling plagues any type of person, from any kind of race or social class, and I think it just comes with the territory of being in a society that is super connected via the internet.
Just because those of us with crippling anxiety and panic do it more frequently than the average folk doesn’t mean that normal people don’t turn to Google to quiet the voices in the back of their minds.
Why Do We Panic Google?
We panic google for a variety of reasons: To make ourselves feel better about a decision we’ve made, about a situation we’re in or to convince ourselves that we aren’t dying. Panic Googling can be something as simple as what time an event is to whether or not constipation is a sign of colon cancer (to be honest I don’t know if it is, but I’d imagine there are far less dramatic reasons to constipation than cancer).
Does Panic Googling Work?
When you start to panic, ask yourself this question:
On a scale of #yolo to Trump becoming president, how concerned am I right now?
If you are at any level of panic beyond #yolo, put down the phone, put away your laptop, and sit in your anxiety.
Panic googling very rarely helps a situation. I can think of 1,000 other things you could be doing than spending an hour of your time researching whether or not that can of paint your dog just took a couple good swigs out of is going to hurt it. Call your vet, call poison control, do something other than wasting precious moments scouring the internet and deciding what to do.
We don’t need anyone or anything dying because you thought the internet was a faster route than calling the cops or your doctor.
But no, panic googling is no joking matter, and when it comes to this strangely compulsory need all anxious people do, I have a theory. When we are anxious, nervous or worried, the first thing we do is type in what we’re afraid of. So, for example:
Is my off colored meat safe to eat?
If my stomach hurts is it appendicitis?
Is a headache the sign of a brain tumor?
Then, once we’ve typed in what our deepest fear is, Google will pop up everything to let you make an educated decision. Of course, in our delusional state, our eyes will likely draw towards the headlines and forums that unnecessarily create more panic.
They will tell you that they too have been having headaches and were just diagnosed with cancer. Or that right before they were told their appendix needed to come out they had a severe stomach ache.
Lo and behold, not only are you more anxious than you were before, but you’ve found yourself traveling down a rabbit hole that you really didn’t need at that moment, and you curse yourself for even thinking of googling it in the first place.
When we panic, we see what we want to see. We very rarely, in moments of true panic, see the situation as manageable. It seems like the end of the world, the worst possible scenario, and everything is terrible. We are viewing the world through glasses tinted with fear.
So why do we feel that when we go to Google that the glasses will come off? Because they won’t. When we are driven by fear, we see only what the fear wants us to see. We are hyper focused on what makes the panic greater.
Which means, if you’ve been following, that when you sit down at your computer to panic google your symptoms or your concerns, not only will you more than likely skip over the “it’s probably nothing” articles, you’ll hone in on the ones that say you’ll likely die in 3 hours and you should write your last will and testament.
Panic googling is something we do that we feel might help us in our time of panic. We go to google because we want reassurance that what we feel isn’t true, or that we can be made to believe that everything will be okay. But it’s impossible for that to happen for two reasons.
One of those being, even if we find an answer that says “hey, you know what, you’re right, everything is fine” we still won’t believe it unless we are ready to believe it. I’ve done this before, where I see something that says “yeah you’re good” and I go, but how do you know that? Then I search some more until I find something that says I won’t be good and go “SEE, I knew that I wasn’t crazy!”
And the second being that when we panic, we tend to gravitate towards more negativity, like I mentioned just a moment ago. We try to find things to show we aren’t crazy, we have justifiable means to be worried, and then latch on to it to panic more.
It’s a vicious cycle and it makes it hard to rationalize situations when we automatically
Don’t panic google. Not even once, kids. Panic googling is a gateway drug to harder drugs, like unnecessary fear mongering and uneducated, close minded, judgmental trolling on forums and threads.
All jokes aside though, panic googling is such a hard habit to kick. Even though every time we panic google we come away going, “I really shouldn’t have done that…” we keep going back thinking next time it’ll be different. If you want to change the outcome, you have to change what you were doing to get that outcome.
If panic googling is causing you extra panic, and you don’t want or need extra panic, stop panic googling. Start trusting your instinct, start listening to the rational side of your mind that is pushing it’s way through a crowd to reach the microphone. Don’t act as your own personal security guard that keeps out the good and forces in the bad.
So there you have it guys, my not so eloquent, but hopefully educational, article on the big points of panic googling, and why you shouldn’t try it – not even once.
Do you have a suggestion for something you’d like to see me research for a future But Does It Work? post? Let me know in the comments below, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Until next time, Internet!
If you would like to email me, you can send any questions, concerns, comments or suggestions to email@example.com. I will do my best to respond to you within 48 hours, but if for some reason I cannot get back to you in that time frame, I promise I will always respond as soon as possible. You can also find me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram!
Lastly, I run an Emetophobia Support Group on Facebook. Emetophobia is the intense and irrational fear of throwing up, and it is one struggle I am passionately engaged in. The group is a closed, by request only group to help facilitate sharing and support by all members. It is also private, meaning that the posts you and others make will not show up publicly in your newsfeed.