Saturday, April 12, 2008

Who's your Googlegänger(s)?

Anyone read the front page article from yesterday's (April 10, 2008) NYT? Had to do with Doppelgangers on the Internet, or Googlegängers. The term "Googlegänger" has been around a while, at least 3 years, which is prehistoric in geek agedom, I presume.
Since Google came around, I've been tracking the other me(s). As the article points out, "But while many people are familiar with Googlegängers, a fundamental question has gone unanswered: Why do so many feel a connection — be it kinship or competition — with utter strangers just because they share a name?

Social science, it turns out, has an answer. It is because human beings are unconsciously drawn to people and things that remind us of ourselves.

A psychological theory called the name-letter effect maintains that people like the letters in their own names (particularly their initials) better than other letters of the alphabet.

..i.e., enough about you, let's talk about me. Searching one's Googlegänger is a private guilty pleasure. I'm assuming everybody does it and I'm assuming it's not a group activity. Unless, of course, a group of you are Googling someone else's Googlegänger. Oh, come on, 'fess up. That perfect friend/relative/co-worker must have an evil/lazy/incompetent Googlegänger out there. It's only human (or in some searches, not).

As my full name is a bit unusual, my Google search of first and last name combo peters out after 40. I seem to have a Facebook account though I've never set one up. Another Googlegänger seems to be highly involved with bowling in Croatia while another seems to be a secretary in some sports league back in the Land of Croats. Not a particularly exciting bunch of Googlegängers I'd say.

What about you? Any daredevils, swashbucklers living your alternate life?


I'd venture a guess that my name is even more unusual than yours. I can't even find myself! I do have one maiden name Googleganger who appears to be much more successful in the triathalon business than I ever was. And ironically, she lives in the same remote town where I found an old high school friend a few years ago.
I'm happy that both of my names are common enough to make me essentially un-Googleable. I have so many Googlegängers that I am amply camouflaged.

For an interesting tale of someone with a much more common name and a Gmail doppelgänger, check this out.
The last time I Googled myself was probably just before this term was coined. Back then, the only other guy on the net with my name was deep in the bowels of IBM, writing code (and, I am sure, being paid amply for it). I see now that he is receding in Google fame and being replaced by a half-dozen other mini-mes, not one of whom I would trade lives with.

Perhaps one reason why Googling my own name doesn't have much appeal is the fact that I've physically encountered several people with my name. I tell you, nothing wilts the "I am God's special flower" concept like coming face to face with people your own age who have your name, right down to the exact spelling.
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