GOOGLE SYNDROME: A Psychological Perspective

On: September 10, 2014
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About Nikos Roumeliotis


Usually Google needs no introduction. But what it stands for is quite relative and as all things in life, it’s in the eye of the beholder. Thus, for my mum Google is the whole internet (!), for some tech geeks Google is an innovation paradise while for the average internet user, Google is a Web search engine.

But not really.

With Global Market share >65%  in the Web search rivalry and more than 150 products –including search tools, advertising services, development tools, map-related products, statistical tools, operating systems, mobile applications, hardware and recently robots – Google monopolises the  centralisation of information across different media platforms, governing what we know or at least what we think we know.

In a world of give and take, Google provides us Free information in exchange of our personal search data. We search for shoes and then Google advertises Nike as a potential supplier. Simple as that. And this is how Google makes money. Which is fine I guess since the evolution of New media indicates New ways of advertising and targeting.

And in that sense we are all happy; within a “secured” environment, WE get free information, THE ADVERTISERS buy visibility and GOOGLE as the medium completes the transaction.



Institutionalization is an often-deliberate process whereby a person entering the institution is reprogrammed to accept and conform to strict controls  (Changing Minds, 2011)  with the intention of rehabilitation from a mental illness (Rothman, 1971). 

Along these lines, if you suffer from curiosity, the right place to rehabilitate is Google. Definitely. It can satiate our insatiable appetite for knowledge and learning, efficiently, at cyberspeed. This is how we become familiarised with the Google environment, as we feel guaranteed that we will always find an answer to our question. Therefore, we create a “risk-free” comfort zone in terms of receiving information, which, HOWEVER, can potentially cause us to create and operate mental boundaries (Alasdair, 2008) since the provided information could be controlled. Cases like, the great firewall of China, the control of the Swedish language and many more, prove that Google can filter out the results for political or corporate reasons.

In this way, the relationship between Google and its users is often paternalised (Greenland, 2001) on what we receive, interpret and absorb as information. In such a relationship, the level of trust surpasses the mere sharing of our personal search data. With our consent,  Google collects information that is stored in our schedules through usage of gmail and g-calendars, location based information by using Google maps, andeven fingerprint and face recognition data by using Android phones.

But why do we insist on Google?


Stockholm Syndrome 

Stockholm syndrome is a psychological phenomenon in which hostages express empathy and sympathy and have positive feelings toward their captors (Namnyak et al. 2007) .

In a manner of exaggeration or for the sake of metaphor,  Google can be the “captor”, since it has the power to manipulate our knowledge and skew it towards its interest (or at least its advertisers’ interests). In the same manner, Google users show their empathy towards Google by being continuously loyal to it, supporting its brand strength and ultimately placing Google as the second biggest brand in the world (Interbrand, 2013). These strong ties, which are all the more robust due to Google’s monopoly, indicate a relationship of (potential) manipulation in a rather unfair manner towards Google users who are not able to identify to what extent google distils the information to suit its purpose



Deinstitutionalisation (DI) is the process of  moving severely mentally ill people out of large state institutions for the own benefit, and then closing part or all of those institutions (Fuller,1997).

Within a closed environment, and under the strong emotional ties that it binds, the only way out of Google’s institualisation is by reducing the reinforcement of dependency and other maladaptive behaviours that it causes (Stroman, 2003) . Breaking up the Stocholm sydrome can be accomplished by reducing the power which stems from the monopoly that (potentialy) violates our right to privacy for our personal data, and eliminating censorship in access to information.

In google’s case, Deinstitutionalisation refers either to the usage of alternative search engines OR to the continued development of knowledge platforms that are controlled by its users, like wikipedia ;-)




Alasdair A. K. White,  “From Comfort Zone to Performance Management“, White and Maclean publishing,  2008

Best Global Brands 2013“,, 2014, (accessed September 2014)

Desktop Search Engine Market Share“,, 2014, (accessed September 2014)

Fuller T., “Out of the Shadows: Confronting America’s Mental Illness Crisis“, New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1997

Greenland, C., Griffin, J. D., & Goffman, B. F., “Psychiatry in Canada from 1951-2001“, Canadian Psychiatric Association, 1-16, 2001

Institutionalization“,, 2014, (accessed September 2014)

List of Google products“,, 2014, (accessed September 2014)

Namnyak, M., Tufton, N., Szekely, R., Toal, M., Worboys, S., Sampson, E. L. “‘Stockholm syndrome’: Psychiatric diagnosis or urban myth?“. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 117(1). 2007, p4–11

Rothman, D.J. , “The discovery of the asylum“, Toronto: Little, Brown & Company, 1971

Stroman, D., “The Disability Rights Movement: From Deinstitutionalization to Self-determination.” University Press of America, 2003

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