How people feel about sharing a name online

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Facebook question for naming

Thanks to the Internet, more and more of us have digital doubles: people who share our name, and may often be confused with us. I try to keep track of all the other people out there named “Alexandra Samuel”, and yet I also feel vaguely uncomfortable with the fact that they exist. What is it about our names that feels so personal and essential that it is awkward to discover we are not unique?

My latest piece for JSTOR Daily answers this question by delving into naming practices in different cultures and different eras. But in the midst of writing that story, I had to do a reality check: was I the only person who felt so itchy about other people sharing my name? I posted that question to Facebook, and the answers were fascinating. It’s also how — thanks to Billeh Nickerson — I discovered the Brian Doyle essay mentioned in my JSTOR piece. Here are some highlights from the thread:

Like me, a lot of people feel uncomfortable sharing a name, for a variety of practical reasons:

issues_combined_cropped

Those issues take on a whole new meaning when you’re sharing a name with a celebrity or public figure — real or fictional!

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Some people embrace the advantages of having a double:

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While a lucky few maintain at least local hegemony over their names…

uniques_cropped

Even if you didn’t start out with a name to yourself, you might get there through marriage:

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But my favorite part of this conversation were the folks who showed up on the thread with their double.

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Thanks again to everyone who shared their stories of dual (or single) identity online. I couldn’t fit all their fabulous stories into this post, so be sure to check out the original thread on Facebook.

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