Lady Gaga, Shakira, and I are going to hang out this weekend

Due to various reasons, I became a member of various social networking groups such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, even though I do absolutely nothing with any of them unless I am forced to. I joined the last one because I was invited to a few of its so-called hangouts to discuss some issues. Of course, all these groups keep sending me messages about what other people are doing and people whom they think I would like to connect to. I completely ignore these messages and often delete them without reading.

But yesterday I got a message from Google+ that said ” Hi Mano! Here are some people you might know on Google+”. Who were these people that Google+ wanted me to include in my circle of friends? Shakira, Lady Gaga, Deepak Chopra, Jeri Ryan, and Maria Bartiromo. Ryan is an actress and Maria Bartiromo is one of those shallow cable news personalities.

I assume that Google+ uses an algorithm based on some kind of ‘six degrees of separation’ model to find potential connections, but I would have thought that they would use a cut off of one or at most two degrees as otherwise you would end up with too many people. I am pretty certain that an introvert like me who does not socialize much at all, let alone in celebrity circles, would be only distantly connected to any of these people. The only one who is even vaguely plausible is Deepak Chopra but that is only because I have written about him on this blog, but always to make fun of him so I doubt that he would consider me a friend in the unlikely event that he knows I exist.

So what could be going on here? Has the Google+ algorithm blown a fuse? Because there is absolutely no way that any rational system would try to link me up with any of these people.


  1. says

    No, it’s just that when you’re dealing with celebrities and social networking, ‘friend’ does not have its ordinary meaning. It means “I want to get updates from this person.” My husband is on George Takei’s friends list, for instance, and gets updates when he posts or reposts something witty.

  2. slc1 says

    Ryan is an actress

    Tsk, tsk, Prof. Singham is politically incorrect. The politically correct terminology is to refer to all those who perform in movies as actors, regardless of gender.

  3. space cadet says

    Well, your name and their names do share at least one letter. I’m pretty sure that guarantees you’d all get along, become BFFs and all get the same tattoo in remembrance of a zany Vegas weekend.

  4. Scr... Archivist says

    Professor, I guess you don’t already know this, but Phil Plait has met Jeri Ryan on a couple of occasions. He’s even written about her, describing her as “a huge science nerd”.

    Maybe Phil is one of your Internet degrees of separation.

  5. azportsider says

    Yours not to reason why, Mano. If Google+ thinks you should hang with Shakira, then you’re just going to have to bite the bullet and hang with Shakira.

  6. invivoMark says

    Perhaps something along the lines of, “Lady Gaga, Shakira, and Mano Singham walk into a bar…”

  7. HP says

    I suspect that since you so rarely use Google+, Google’s algorithm doesn’t have a big enough sample to confidently infer your interests, so it’s just throwing in some generically well-known celebrities.

  8. Nathan & the Cynic says

    I find it vaguely amusing that you didn’t feel you had to explain who Shakira, Lady Gaga and Deepak Chopra are.

  9. maudell says

    I heard that before, and it puzzles me. I find it interesting, because in French (my 1st language), the feminist movement is fighting to add gender to professions. In fact, French Canadians already use new “feminized” terms to refer to positions of power, and feminists in France are often delighted by that when they come to Canada. Gendered career names is actually an example some feminists in France use to illustrate that North America is less sexist than France.

  10. eigenperson says

    That’s because in French, every noun has a gender, so if all professional titles are masculine, it perpetuates the notion of maleness as default.

    In English, nouns don’t have genders, so it doesn’t make sense to have a special word for, say, a woman who acts, when there is already a perfectly good term for a person who acts.

  11. CaitieCat says

    Indeed. And we’ve been generally moving away from the feminine forms for a long time now -- poetess is almost never used, sculptress, aviatrix, editrix are all pretty much gone, even waitress is disappearing some except in combination (cocktail waitress, et c.). The problem in English is that the words are generally used to shove women into a ghetto. In French, everything has these forms, or they’re being invented, as you say. The same is happening in Russian: my own profession, translator, was traditionally known in Russian as a perevodchik, the make “chik” ending never being swapped for the “chitsa” feminine ending. Some professions only rarely appeared in the masculine form, or don’t have one at all: medsestra, for nurse, has no masculine form, and uchitel’, the male teacher, was becoming less common as the profession became more feminized.

    But since English is largely without these forms, and we were moving away from the ones we did have under the urgings of the early feminists over 150 years ago, there’s really no reason to maintain the few outliers still extant. I try to always use “waiter” and “actor”, and almost never have to explain myself anymore, even to strangers -- which i used to, twenty years ago.

  12. CaitieCat says

    Er, that’s the “male” “chik” ending in Russian.

    Also, replied to the wrong person. 🙂

  13. Vote for Pedro says

    No one’s mentioned that Jeri Ryan isn’t just an actor, but was on Star Trek specifically?

    Even if it wasn’t safe to assume physics professors might have an interest in Star Trek (and at least one former Case physics prof wrote a book on Star Trek, so it’s probably a good guess), I’m guessing many folks in your G+ circle have an interest in Star Trek. So that’s only 2 degrees most likely anyhow.

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