Do you, too, have the same name as someone else out there on the Internet? Then you, too, have likely had a happy ending to the story of your inevitable crossing of paths — no matter which end of the common-name spectrum you may inhabit. Perhaps a story that goes like this, as splashed across the front page of today's Wall Street Journal under the headline Meet Your Email Doppelgänger: Doug emails a note to his wife, Stacy Erickson, about the sex they just had. "Thanks again for last night," read the email, according to the Journal's Kelli B. Grant. "Still thinking about it with a smile on my face ;-) Love you." Except the message doesn't go to his wife. It goes to Stacy E. Erickson, one state over. But Stacy 2 emails Doug back, and the "real" Stacy finds the whole thing "pretty funny."
But it doesn't always work out like that — sometimes the relationship turns into something more, or less. A lot of us share names with people. Many Atlantic Wire staff members share names with photographers, turns out. And because the Internet doesn't tend to involve, you know, faces, people often confuse one Jen Doll for the other, forcing communication between two people who should never, really, have ever met. Sure, some digital doppelgängers probably ignore the confusion altogether. But sometimes unexpected relationships come about! The Atlantic Wire spoke with people who suffer the plight of a shared name online. These are their stories.
"Her mom and I actually have a relationship at this point." The Atlantic's Becca Rosen* has what she calls a "mad common name," which has resulted in her receiving emails on behalf of another Becca Rosen, who as far as she can tell is very involved in her sorority at Johns Hopkins. Most notable, though, are the emails she gets from Other Becca's mom. "We've communicated so much," says Becca 1. When receiving messages containing funny YouTube videos or links to Nieman Marcus dresses, Rosen replies politely. "I think you must have messed up the email address because my mom's name is Jo. Good luck with the dresses." Or: "Again, wrong Becca! But I really do appreciate the confusion. I get a laugh out of it every time." But the correspondence doesn't end there. Mom writes back asking Becca if she has watched and enjoyed the video, proving that moms do just want validation for their email forwards. "I mean, I could email her [other Becca] and be like, 'Hey, you should use periods or a capital letter when you give out your email address,'" Becca 1 said. "But whatever. It's kind of fun."
"She writes about sports and I write about rape." Jezebel's Katie J.M. Baker added her middle initials — J and M, from the names of her great grandmothers, Jennifer and Molly — to her byline so people wouldn't confuse her with the other Katie Bakers of the online media world — Katie Baker and Katie Baker. That hasn't worked. The other day, Keith Gessen of N+1 tweeted at her about hockey books:
@katiejmbaker Went to library yesterday to look for BREAKAWAY. Books on every sport in world, including "pedestrianism"--but not hockey. :(— Keith Gessen (@keithgessen) May 31, 2013
One of the other Katie Bakers writes at Grantland about, amongst other things, hockey. "I will never write anything about hockey, unless a hockey player sexually assaults someone," said Katie J.M. There are no hard feelings, though: "We email each other when people confuse us because it's funny."
"I feel like I'm lucky that the person I (sorta) share a name with is awesome and not terrible." One doesn't have to have a "mad common name" to suffer the plight of sharing a name with someone of note, as The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal knows all too well. He (almost) shares a name with the comedian and Daily Show correspondent Al Madrigal — and also "a few dozen ladies in the Philippines, where it is a popular family name." Either because of the Filipina women or because or Al Madrigal, Alexis often gets trollish tweets like this one. He can't be sure they weren't intended for him, but he doesn't think he has that kind of cachet. "It would be an honor to be famous enough for these kids to know who I was because it would mean that I was like, Lebron James," Alexis says.
"I am annoyed she chose to use my name." The Atlantic Wire's Elspeth Reeve has a relatively uncommon moniker, and she has discovered not only that someone else shares her name — but that this person chose it as a nom de plume. As her bio at Romance Beat claims, "Ellie Reeve" is just one of the many bylines she uses. It's not clear that she knows our Elspeth Reeve, who also goes by Elle (pronounce el-ie). But it's still pretty unsettling: "Since I was born a weird-named person, I am not used to knowing anyone with anything close to my name and it bothers me," Reeve said. "What if you were special because you had one blue eye and one brown eye — and then one day Kate Bosworth walked into your office and took away everything?"
Because of the facelessness of the Internet, these sorts of interactions have become commonplace for many of us. It's almost impossible to escape. Rosen thinks its better than the alternative, though: "I am half-inclined to name our future children David Rosen and Sarah Rosen or something," she said. "Adolescence is torture, and it's way worse if everything is searchable."
*Becca Rosen and I are digital doppelgängers, of sorts. We don't share a name, but because of our similar bio — Becca writes about technology for The Atlantic — people often confuse us. It's an honor to be confused with that Becca, though.