Just Google It

Can Anybody Help Me by Sinead Crowley

Sinead Crowley talks about the unexpected inspiration for the title of her most recent book, Can Anybody Help Me?

Posted on January 12, 2015 in Guest Author
Tags: Google, Inspiration

It all started with Google. But doesn’t everything, these days? You want to catch a bus? Google the timetable. The tap’s dripping? Grab your smartphone. Expecting your first baby? Time to (ahem) #breaktheinternet.

Of course, I don’t mean the big stuff, the type of questions you really should save for your doctor or your next hospital visit. But it’s the little things that make Google so addictive when you’re in the first trimester and have few other options to turn to. Are my eyebrows getting bushier? Does fruitcake count as one of my five-a-day? What in the name of Jemima is a foot-muff and what would I do with one if I bought it?

Google leads inevitably to parenting websites, and that’s where the real fun begins. From underneath your tapping fingers emerge hundreds of women, all sharing your obsessions, some even your due date. You can start a nine-month long comparison of eyebrow hair if you like, and stay completely anonymous. At least, that’s what I believed when those tapping fingers belonged to me.

Then one day I spotted somebody online that I knew from In Real Life. It hadn’t taken much to give her away. She didn’t use her real name, but her baby’s name was there, the hospital she’d attended and, buried in a separate post, her husband’s occupation. Instant recognition. I closed my laptop and found myself blushing. It felt wrong, like I’d been caught reading her diary or peeping through her kitchen window. Of course, she would never know I was reading her posts, her most private thoughts about her baby and her new life. But I was there.

My own baby arrived and Google was replaced by long walks and short sleeps. But in the back of my mind an idea was starting to simmer. For years I’d spoken about writing ‘the book’, but I lacked an idea, a big one. Here was a beginning. But I needed more.

Then one day she came to me, her image so sharp in my brain it was as if she was in the room beside me. A woman, younger than me, more isolated, living far from her family and friends, sitting up in bed in the middle of the night staring at a laptop. Her husband was asleep, her baby finally quiet after half a night spent roaring and she was thinking to herself, ‘every friend I have is on the other side of that screen.’

The idea was bubbling now but it still hadn’t thickened. Then came a final question: What if they weren’t all her friends? What if somebody out there knew who she really was and wanted to do her harm?

After all that, the title was the easy part, a question asked by forum users all over the world in the hope that a friendly voice will answer them.
“Can Anybody Help Me?”

Most of the time, they can.

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