The Art of Living Other People's Lives

Stories, Confessions, and Memorable Mistakes


By Greg Dybec

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“Greg Dybec is the quirky, neurotic, funny little brother I never had. The Art of Living Other People’s Lives is a terrific collection of relatable, hilarious stories.” — Jen Mann, New York Times bestselling author of People I Want to Punch in the Throat

When he isn’t responsible for pleasing tens of millions of online readers a month as the managing editor of Elite Daily, Greg Dybec worries about rent, sex, love, family, and–the most millennial topic of them all–a desire to leave a legacy. In The Art of Living Other People’s Lives, Greg delivers a funny, brash, insightful collection of stories on becoming a pick-up artist to get over an ex-girlfriend, late-night adventures with his Uber drivers, a writing gig about men’s underwear, and so much more.

Whether he’s learning to hashtag from his tech-savvy mom, pestering Mark Cuban for life advice, or eavesdropping on strangers for story ideas, Greg takes readers on a hilariously neurotic and self-analytical journey that explores the struggle of balancing his plugged-in persona with his real-world self. Along the way, he — and you — might discover that life is a whole lot simpler online.


People of the Internet, You Are Not Alone

I spend nearly every single day on Google Analytics for my job. Google Analytics is a service provided by Google that tracks everything possible to know about a website’s traffic. A large portion of my time is dedicated to analyzing Elite Daily readers: tracking how many people visit the site, the cities they live in, how many articles they read, how long they read them for, whether they’re male or female, young or old. The list goes on and on. I often have so many charts and numbers on my screen that if a stranger were to see me working, they’d assume I was in finance. But the numbers have nothing to do with budgets or yearly revenue; each one, instead, represents a person, living and breathing, completely unaware that I care so much about their existence, habits, and interests.

Attracting people to a website shares similarities with the techniques used by pick-up artists. You begin to learn and understand peoples’ behaviors, or at least you try to. You start tracking what piques their interests as a collective group and what makes them come back for more. There’s predictability to human behavior that often goes unseen, but when you search for it, and most of all, when you use it to your advantage, people become one rhythmic, faceless mass, almost like a wave, swaying and growing and shifting, just asking to be tamed and given what they want—even before they know it’s what they want.

It’s the job of any website to determine what stories its audience wants to read and share, and why. How do they want these stories delivered to them? What’s the best time to deliver them? Do they like their titles long or short? Do they prefer pictures to be tall or wide?

Admittedly, there is a semispoken-but-mostly-unspoken truth across the digital media industry that working for the Internet will make you jaded. The consistent goal of driving people to a website can make you forget that those same people are more than just numbers that are tracked on a screen and tallied up in pretty graphs at the end of each month. It’s not a life-altering jadedness that makes you incapable of human contact, but it does cause you to spend your morning commute viewing the people around you as potential clicks and page views. Each person a potential set of new eyes. Another visitor for the books.

Viewing people as statistics is nothing new in any business, especially media. The realization didn’t leave me contemplating my purpose in life or whether or not I should quit my job. It’s simply part of the game, and besides, it’s rewarding to know you have the ability to influence so many people at one time, even if you’ll never know them on a personal level. More than anything, the feeling of being disconnected—while at the same time connecting with millions of people online—is a side effect that lingers. It never quite festers and worsens. But I still found myself wishing for a way to find a hint of humanity in the numbers I tracked each day.

Enter the most interesting discovery I’ve made while working at Elite Daily, or while using the Internet period. Technically, I didn’t discover it—Kaitlyn, the site’s editor in chief, first showed it to me. And the timing couldn’t have been better. Despite my borderline obsessive relationship with Google Analytics, I’d never paid attention to one function, a small, hardly noticeable feature labeled Top Keywords. Since Google provides the analytics service, the feature is able to show all the top searches that people typed into the Google search engine that, one way or another, led them to Elite Daily. Say you type a question like “Who’s running for president?” or “Why do hangovers hurt so badly?” into the Google search box. Then say that Google search yields many results, including an Elite Daily article that could potentially answer your question. You click on that article, and suddenly, your initial question appears on my screen in the top-keywords page on Google Analytics. Pretty simple. Also pretty spy-like.

Kaitlyn first stumbled upon the feature after noticing a seemingly random list of questions while playing around with Google Analytics: hard-to-miss questions like “How do I change the taste of my vagina?” and “How to make her have sex with her ex-boyfriend?” She clicked into the top-keywords page and was greeted by a slew of similarly straightforward and unashamed questions and phrases that people all over the world were typing into their computers. The questions people were throwing into the Internet void were perfect combinations of vulgar, honest, and intensely private thoughts. She shared her discovery with me and we laughed like children, mostly at the fact that the bizarre searches were somehow leading back to Elite Daily.

Later that night, back at my apartment, I couldn’t help but log on to Google Analytics for another dose of the top-keyword searches. I convinced myself I could use a laugh and decided I’d collect a few of the funniest searches to show Kaitlyn in the morning. In the darkness of my apartment, clicking into the keyword page felt like entering an AOL chat room my parents warned me to avoid as a child.

Immediately, the real-time keyword searches populated my screen:

       How to enjoy my single life as a girl

       After many sex lady vagina are loose why?

       Human that make sex everyday

       Difference in red and white wine

       Do I smoke too much pot

       How to become famous

       How to pee with morning wood

Seeing the keywords refreshing every few seconds made the whole thing feel wrong and dangerous. I felt like a secret agent with access to strangers’ most personal thoughts. Granted, I had no way of finding out who any of these people were or where they were located in the world, but the unknown made the whole operation feel even more scandalous.

Suddenly feeling like I was seeing too much, I shut my laptop. But five minutes later I was back on, watching the searches refresh like a stockbroker eyeing the market. I’d take screenshots of my favorites and before I knew it I had a folder full of them.

       20 signs she is horny and wants to have sex

       Does he qualify as an asshole

I felt powerful. I felt like the keeper of some great secret. I was obsessed.

It was the greatest form of entertainment I’d found in some time. The directness of some of the questions—many of them sexual, because, let’s face it, all we think about is sex—were perfect in their delicate conciseness. They were written out exactly the way people thought them. Naturally, these sex questions were often the most absurd and humorous. Some of the more interesting searches included

       Girls favorite penis

       How many types of orgasms do we have

       How do girls feel during periods

       Effects of small penis during sex

       Can your vagina be loose when you don’t have a child

       Great sex with screams

       Does a hairy guy perform better in bed

       How to know person masturbates

       Desire to lick woman ass

       Corkscrew penis

       Can you get stuck together during sex

Someone out there in the world is truly curious whether or not you can tell if a person masturbates just by looking at him or her. What about the person wondering if hairy guys are good in bed? Is it a hairy guy who wants to know, or someone considering sleeping with a hairy guy? How hairy are we talking? We won’t even address the corkscrew penis.

The narratives I conceived about the mysterious figures on the other end of the screen were endless. In my mind I was putting faces to the people I’d never know. Then there was the tantalizing thought that maybe, by some chance, out of the two billion people who use the Internet, one of the phrases I’d come across was written by someone I knew.

It was easy to be initially drawn to the vulgarity of the sex searches, but after some time I realized that a whole different layer of searches was far more delicate and humane. The first nonsexual question to catch my eye was “Can you fall in love with someone through texts.” For some reason the words floored me. They jumped off the screen like poetry. I wanted to print the question on T-shirts and sell them in college parking lots. I wanted scientists to actually determine whether or not you could fall in love through texts. I wanted to write a thesis paper on it. I wanted to sell the words to Taylor Swift so she could use them as the title of her next song. I wondered how many of us have thought the same thing about texting before, too afraid to ask the question out loud. After noticing the “fall in love through text” question, I went on the hunt for similar questions, potent in their simplicity and sincerity. I quickly came across “How to hold hands with a guy” and “He said I love you too soon.” The new screenshots I took felt personal, and the entire procedure became more than just an entertaining way to pass the time. Hints of genuine uncertainty shone through these new searches, and for the first time I realized my prayers to be more connected with Elite Daily’s audience had been answered. Here was an entirely new look at readers as their most authentic selves—something flashing numbers on a screen could never reveal. You hear that people are their most honest selves when they think nobody is looking, and the Internet proves it. I cherished the new additions to my collection:

       How to move forward with life

       I cheated and I want to do it again

       How to go from being a side chick to a girlfriend

       Can’t talk to girl I like

       When a girl says sure what does it mean

       Do women love men with belly

       Am I a bad kisser

       Can’t get my girl to cuddle me

       I like wearing socks during sex why?

       Are guys without girlfriends useless

       Boyfriend distant

       How to keep your girl happy with words

       Everyone else is getting married

       Wife not adventurous with sex

       I always get drunk and regret it

I felt more connected with the vast Internet population than ever before. Each day I’d wake up to a stream of strangers’ most important life questions and concerns. It was like knowing the plots to countless movies but never being able to see the ending. I’d go through the day wondering whether that guy ended up getting his girlfriend to cuddle. Did the person who cheated end up cheating again? Did their partner find out?

If there’s a lesson in any of this, it’s that you are not alone, good people of the Internet. I saw so many questions repeated countless times, the most frequent (perhaps unsurprisingly) being those about sex, love, and family. We’re all asking the same questions at some point in our lives, and there is something genuinely comforting in that.

Of course, you can have too much of a seemingly good thing. I was working from home the day it occurred to me that perhaps I’d taken advantage of the keyword feature’s purpose. The truth is I’d gone a little too hard the night before, which happened to be a Tuesday. (Fun fact: Finishing a full bottle of sake by yourself pretty much guarantees you’ll be working from home the following day.) After sleeping through my alarm, I logged online around 10 a.m., still too dizzy to pour my dehydrated self a glass of water. About twenty minutes into trying to get work done, I realized I’d be kidding myself if I thought it’d be a productive day. So I logged on to Google Analytics and headed straight to the keyword searches. At least it was sort of work related.

Through the haze of my hangover, I scanned the familiar list as it refreshed every few seconds. After a few refreshes I noticed a couple of distinctively somber searches. They especially stood out within the mix of the more common “how to give a blow-job” and “when to ask her out” questions.

Within seconds of one another I came across the following searches:

       I hate people

       Alone in the world

I was experiencing one of those overly dramatic hangovers in which you consider everything you’ve done in your life and whether it’s all been worthwhile, so those searches hit me hard. I’d logged on to be cheered up by strangers of the Internet, not depressed by them. More than that, though, I had a hard time believing these heartbreakingly honest searches were a sudden, new trend. I’d never noticed questions like them, though. It occurred to me that I’d never really watched the searches unfold for long periods of time. I mostly just popped in and out throughout the day to grab a screenshot or two. It’s possible that I’d conditioned myself to see what I wanted to see, collecting not the full spectrum of searches, but whatever pleased my mood. When I hoped to find funny sex questions, it seemed like there was an abundance of funny sex questions. When I was on the prowl for poetic confessions like “Can you fall in love through texts,” the supply seemed endless.

Since there was no chance of my moving from the couch, I decided I’d keep an eye on the searches. Throughout the next couple of hours, there was mostly a stream of the usual types of questions about love and sex and how to save money, though in between those, I pulled out “Feeling depressed need help,” “Is it normal to constantly plan for death,” and “Why did my mother have to die.”

Combined with my pounding headache and a lingering taste of acidic regret drying out my mouth, the searches only made me feel worse. Throughout the rest of the day I collected:

       Trust issues with abusive mom

       Husband is quiet and distant

       Am I in love with someone I can never have

       He will never love me back

       Is there a point in living if she doesn’t love me back

       When you find out your man is cheating

       I hate meeting people

       Why do I think about suicide

       Don’t belong in my family

       Doubt that people love me

When I was young I’d go camping every year with my dad and brother. We’d usually spend long weekends at a campground in Upstate New York, fishing during the day, sitting around a fire at night, and sleeping on the uneven ground in a tent. On most nights, my dad would want to go for a walk to get a better view of the stars. The walks always enticed me as much as they frightened me, mostly because the darkness that enveloped the campground at night was unlike any darkness I’d known before. It was thick and had weight to it. Anything could have been hiding in that darkness and you’d never know. I was always conflicted during those walks. I wanted to use my flashlight, but at the same time, shining the light into the woods around us meant the possibility of revealing something I didn’t want to see. At that age, a bustling imagination enhances the fear of the unknown. That fear usually resulted in my walking closely by my dad’s side, following the single stream of light from his flashlight that illuminated the path ahead. It felt safe to let the darkness play its role, to let whatever was concealed by it stay that way.

By the end of the day, as my hangover was finally beginning to wind down, I felt like I’d been shining my flashlight places I shouldn’t have. I’d always sensed that perhaps I was overstepping a boundary by taking pleasure in the private thoughts of others, and that fateful day proved my theory to be correct. Yes, nothing you do on the Internet is private, but I doubt people assume that means a twenty-five-year-old in Queens is collecting their most intimate thoughts in a folder on his MacBook. Regardless of the fact I didn’t know who they were, a part of me was still finding joy in their genuine struggles. And clearly the searches weren’t only coming from teens wondering how to hold hands and cuddle their girlfriends. They were from a range of people who had lost loved ones, were fighting depression, and were simply trying as hard as the rest of us to figure out their purpose in this sometimes lonely life.

I decided to give up the keywords feature cold turkey. I made a hungover vow to myself to let strangers’ deep, personal Google searches float around the Internet cosmos without my interference. Besides, rather than spy on countless Elite Daily readers, I could do my actual job and make sure the site remained relevant.

If my admittedly strange obsession with reading the private thoughts of others had taught me anything, it’s that we’re all trying to cope with what life throws at us, whether it’s good, bad, or somewhere in between. We’re all asking ourselves questions we’d never ask out loud. The woman passing you by may be trying to figure out why her husband has been acting so distant. That woman who ruined your day by accidentally stepping on your new shoes could have just lost someone she loved. The guy sitting across from you could very well have a corkscrew penis.

During my morning commute, when I’m surrounded by tired-looking faces and people preparing for another day, I can only imagine the range of questions that a single subway car would yield if they were to appear on my computer screen. Now when I make eye contact with a stranger across a train car, I don’t see them as a statistic. I don’t even create fictional stories about them and their interests. I just smile to myself, finding comfort in the fact that the Internet is there for them, in all its anonymous and nonjudgmental glory.


I was thirty thousand feet in the air and halfway to Italy for a two-week trip with my family when the panic set in. It was the same panic I experience almost every time I travel internationally. It has nothing to do with turbulence and crying babies and everything to do with the fact that in a few short hours I’ll be in a country that speaks an entirely different language from my own.

I gave up on my dream of learning another language a long time ago. For some reason, capturing even the basic phonetics of any foreign dialect is impossible for me, no matter how often I practice in the shower. Even pronouncing the names of wines has proven too difficult, so much so that I find myself ordering whatever’s easiest to say out loud at restaurants and not what I actually want to drink. Despite all of this, I actually travel often, for both work and pleasure, so there’s never a shortage of anxiety and embarrassment.

Surprisingly, I can recall a decent number of Spanish phrases from my high-school classes. The words even sound fluent when I say them in my head. But then I open my mouth and suddenly I’m yelling like a drunken game-show host, adding unnecessary emphasis to words in a voice much deeper than the one I use to speak English. I first realized this in Barcelona, when I asked a street vendor “Cuanto dinero?” for a pair of sunglasses and came off like I was announcing he’d just won a brand new car.

In Paris, I got by by mumbling “bonjour” and “merci” while walking as quickly as possible in the opposite direction of whomever I was spewing sound at. I got so good at the walk-and-talk that locals and cashiers started calling after me in French to strike up conversations, assuming, I imagine, that someone in such a hurry couldn’t possibly be a tourist. In South Africa, people were prepared to perform the Heimlich maneuver on me when I attempted to pronounce “goeie môre,” which is Afrikaans for good morning. In Brazil, my “obrigado” rolled off my tongue with an embarrassing bravado that sounded nothing like Portuguese and more like an exaggerated line from an Italian mob boss in The Godfather. One time in Belize, a tour guide tried to teach me how to properly enunciate the phrase, “Me belly full,” which is a way to suggest “I’ve had enough to eat” in Belizean Creole. What should have resembled an accent similar to Jamaican Patois squeaked out of me the way I imagine leprechauns sing.

Now when I travel, I’m fine up until the point the trip starts to feel real, which is around the same time I realize I can’t fall asleep on the plane or a flight attendant crushes my elbow with a beverage cart. Then the fear of embarrassing myself takes over, and suddenly the trip I’d been anticipating becomes the trip I’m dreading.

I realized midflight that Italy was intimidating me more than any other country I’d been to, mostly because I’ve spent the majority of my life in America telling people I’m Italian. Americans love to ask anyone and everyone “what they are,” even when they know that person’s ancestry has played little to no part in their upbringing. My answer to this question has always been, “I’m mostly Italian.” I’m Italian only on my mother’s side, but her family is more than double the size of my father’s, so I grew up eating pasta on Sundays and hearing stories about my great-grandmother cutting the heads off live chickens in the kitchen. That’s Italian enough for me. Or at least in America it is.

Being of Italian descent in America, like being of any ethnic descent in America, doesn’t automatically mean you’ve lived some wildly different life than anyone else around you. Unless you’re first or maybe second generation, odds are you grew up similarly to the people around you who were the same age. Other than the selection of home-cooked meals and the religion my parents raised me in, my childhood wasn’t all that different than the Puerto Rican kids down the road or the Jewish kid across the street.


  • "Greg Dybec is the (much) younger, quirky, neurotic, funny little brother I never had. The Art of Living Other People's Lives is a terrific collection of relatable, hilarious stories."
    Jen Mann, New York Times bestselling author of People I Want to Punch in the Throat
  • "This book made me realize how boring my own life is. I loved every second of reading it."—Joe Santagato, entertainer
  • "Reading Greg Dybec's absorbing essays is like having drinks with your funny, curious best friend, trading stories 'til last call. He's a spelunker into the human condition, a smart and soulful observer of the world. This book puts a smile on your face!"—Davy Rothbart, author of My Heart Is an Idiot, creator of FOUND Magazine, and contributor to This American Life
  • "If somebody asked me to suggest one single book of hilarious and heartfelt essays that sum up the constant existential crisis that is being a millennial, I'd have a hard time finding a better pick than Greg Dybec's The Art of Living Other People's Lives."—Jason Diamond, author of Searching for John Hughes

On Sale
Jan 3, 2017
Page Count
240 pages
Running Press

Greg Dybec

About the Author

Greg Dybec is the Managing Editor of Elite Daily, a leading millennial-focused digital publisher reaching tens and millions of readers each month. The Art of Living Other People’s Lives is his first book. He lives in New York City. Visit Greg at

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