15 March 2013

Dear Google, I am not pregnant.

It's been quite a week, friends. The Catholic Church elected a new pope, with all the associated brouhaha there.* Google decided to kill Google Reader, with all that associated "do no evil" brouhaha.** Oh, and I spent most of the week pretty sick,*** and Google kept suggesting that my symptoms were those of pregnancy.

*I am still surprised at how prevalent and frequent updates on the papal conclave were.
**Preliminary auditions suggest I will be taking up with Feedly.
***I am so behind on blogs from packing and being ill; 
my most profuse, sincere apologies to anyone 
languishing from lack of my comments.

I've noticed a very strange trend when it comes to Googling symptoms of illness: it seems everything is a symptom of pregnancy. And that doesn't really say much encouraging about pregnancy, does it?

It's somewhat reminiscent of my sex education in health class, which can be boiled down to: if you have sex, you will get pregnant and die. From the STDs. Or STIs if you want to be politically correct. But you'll still die, probably. Or at least it will be very embarrassing and probably nobody will want to marry you (because you have an STD) and you might become infertile.*
*At this point, infertility is sounding pretty good because of the way they already 
terrified us about pregnancy ruining our lives and apparently being torture, 
given the inhuman screaming of the woman in the video.

Note: the above paragraph was sarcastic. Having an STD/STI does not automatically mean that nobody will want to marry you or that you should be embarrassed. That was merely an exaggeration of the message I felt I received in health classes.

"You might have a cold. Or it could
be cancer! Hard to tell, really."
Googling symptoms of what is, let's face it, likely no more than a very bad cold, and having pregnancy come up as a result reminds me of sex ed. It's PROBABLY a cold, but also you might be PREGNANT. And honestly, when the internet tells you that you might be pregnant, it's hard to immediately dismiss it, even when you know that's ridiculous. (Especially when your early education about pregnancy was focused on how it will ruin your life.)

That's one of the big problems with looking up health-related things on the internet. My mind fixates on the worst possible suggested outcome, even if it doesn't make any sense. (Brown recluse spiders aren't even native to Virginia, Callie!) It's a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it's always useful to be better-informed. Maybe one of your symptoms is a real red-flag. For example, I simply wanted to check up on at what point I should become concerned about bronchitis or strep throat or something worse than a cold. But there's always the chance that Doctor Google will suggest you have a brain parasite or prostate cancer or are pregnant.

I'm not really picking on Google. Any search of symptoms on pretty much any website is likely to turn up a few real zingers. This is likely because most of the really serious things cause such a wide variety of symptoms that happen to also be symptoms of quite common, relatively mundane conditions. The weird effect, however, is that the hardcore things come up with only a few hits that are honestly unlikely to equate to those things. The combination of chills, fever, and weakness is much more likely to indicate sunburn or flu than it is to indicate the plague. 

Of course, it's all in context. We probably all know that self-diagnosing via the internet is likely not the best or most reliable thing to do, especially if the serious things that are likely to come up tend to freak us out. But I would guess that many of you, like me, do it anyway. But no, Google, I am not pregnant. Thanks for the horrifying flashbacks of middle school health class, though. That was awesome.

What has been your most-horrifying Internet diagnosis? Seriously, have any of you wondered if you had the plague? Any guys worry about being pregnant? Bring the stories! Don't leave me hanging here!