The only thing shocking about the news that Internet users regularly Google themselves and former flames is that only half of us cop to being such snoops.

Clearly, some folks fibbed when the Pew Internet and American Life Project pollsters called. I would have put the figure at 90 percent.

Admit it. You've investigated your life online while listening to hold music or tuning out an epic conference call.

Even all these years later, you want to know if the high school quarterback is still a stud, if the prom queen got fat, if the one who got away is still running free.

"Nostalgia seems to motivate quite a few Internet users," explained Susannah Fox, a coauthor of the project.

A third of those surveyed said they used the Web to check up on people they once had known. Twenty percent said someone had reconnected with them after finding contact information online.

Google is the new nosy neighbor, in the privacy of our own home.

In 0.08 seconds - how long it takes to search the life and times of Monica Yant Kinney - 59,400 examples of my existence are gathered in a tidy electronic package.

But that's me, living publicly in print. What about regular people?

Nuggets of news about semi-strangers - career changes, sex changes - can help us feel connected when we're not.

But if you can't get the whole story or even be sure you've found the right special someone named John Smith, would you be better off having never searched?

Is that you?

It's bad enough that I've wasted hours poking around the Internet searching for people I don't know anymore - people who obviously didn't mean it when they wrote in my high school yearbook that we'd be "Best Friends Forever."

But to try to learn their tale and fail? That's embarrassing.

Boyfriend No. 1, I learn in 0.10 seconds, is a "lost alumni" of his university. If the endowment police can't find the guy, neither can I.

So the mystery continues, and if you must know, I'm not printing his name because I don't want him Googling me and finding a column about my Googling him.

That's the thing about spying on people from the past. Who wants to get caught caring?

Boyfriend No. 2 is all over the map. He might be a Jaycee. Or a Realtor. Or a triathlete. Or an elementary school custodian. Or a woman teaching public-housing residents how to have more self-esteem.

I'm drawn to the fellow who operates a ceramics shop in South Africa. But deep down, I think he's the CPA still living in the Midwest. He always was good at math.

Then there's the ponytailed tomboy who enraged me in my first and last fistfight at a sixth-grade sleepover.

Could that brute possibly be a pharmacist? It's so improbable, but when you're Googling people with common names, cosmic questions are often unanswered. Guess, or give up.

Speaking of names, an adolescent academic rival who had a doozy of one married a guy with an even stranger handle. Lovely dress. I know because I saw her wedding portrait online.

Striking out online

My mom is a Google nobody, which will make her happy, because she's afraid to order anything from the Internet lest a child pornographer hack into her computer to steal photos of her granddaughter in the bathtub. True fear.

My father has

never

sent an e-mail or surfed the Web - facts he secretly hopes make it into his obituary, which will inevitably be posted online, defeating the purpose.

Dad recently asked me to order a book from Amazon.com for a friend, opening the door for me to mock him as being no different from Amish people who take rides from English in trucks.

And yet there he is, listed on a running Web site as the honorary referee at a track meet in the spring. He'll be horrified.

Dozens of names and memories later, I've learned almost nothing of interest about people I clearly had lost interest in years ago.

Except for the fact that one of my freshman-year college roommates runs a plastic-surgery and dermatology institute that offers an array of "medical spa" options for those of us irritated by aging.

Her I will e-mail immediately.

Contact Monica Yant Kinney at myant@phillynews.com or 215-854-4670.

Read her recent work at http://go.philly.com/yantkinney