Take a second to think about what your name actually means to you. What does it mean to people who know you? What does it mean to the world?
Just the other day, a colleague pointed out to me that, “if you Google Patrick Halligan, the top results are about a kid who committed suicide.” I replied immediately, “yes I know” and the familiar image of Ryan Patrick Halligan came to memory.
Ryan Patrick Halligan committed suicide in 2003, electing to hang himself as the result of severe bullying while his father was out of town. His suicide brought a lot of needed media attention to issues like cyberbullying and the reality that the internet can be a dangerous place, especially for our youth. The impact was rather profound. His Father, John Halligan, an IBM employee, was even able to inspire IBM to launch an initiative known as iSafe to educate youth regarding internet safety. Following the tragedy, his parents appeared on several news programs telling their son’s devastating story.
All of this information was heavily indexed in association with the keywords “Patrick Halligan.” And now, if you simply search “Patrick Halligan” you will be introduced to Ryan’s Story.
I thought a lot about the conversation, more than I had in past instances, and decided to dig a little deeper into the life of this kid who I share part of a name with, and who would be the same age as me if he were alive today. –I also wonder if we are of any direct relation–
The thought that I cannot shake has to do with the impact of our lives and how the internet acts as almost a gauge of our impact on society. The more attention you get, the more content that will be produced and therefore indexed by search engines like Google and Bing. I asked myself, what would it mean or will it mean if and or when a search for Patrick Halligan returns content about me, as the first result on an engine like Google as opposed to Ryan? Will that mean that what I have done, good or bad, had a larger impact on the internet than Ryan Patrick Halligan’s devistating story? Certainly, right? How important is the internet in determining how important we and our lives are to the world? It could be the single most important thing.
What would it mean if someone searched for information about Ryan Patrick Halligan and content about Patrick Halligan, me, came up first? How would Ryan’s family feel if that happened to them?
Just something I have been thinking about……….