Long, long ago, in a previous millennium and my early days online, I searched for the first time for my own name, and found two of me.
There was Nick Earls, the author, and Nick Earls, a college ball player from somewhere like Ohio. My partner searched for her name and found a student at senior high in Michigan. We came up with the theory that everyone has an internet doppelganger in the US Midwest (and presumably Midwesterners have doppelgangers dispersed everywhere else).
Over the years, while browsing the tributes, slander and retail opportunties of the internet that had my name attached, I would come across the other Nick Earls every so often. I think his promising sporting career was cut short by injury. Ten years ago, we owned the same model car. I know that because he was in his local Neon club. (In Australia, there is no call for a Neon club …)
Eventually, I seemed to swamp him on google. I’d like to say that was due to acclaim gushing all over the place, but it was mostly because of the retail opportunities. There must be tens of thousands of people selling books online now, new and old. On top of that, there were library catalogues, random blog and article mentions, stories that ran when I was promoting books (and that never die) and radio interviews (which now seem to be podcast around the time you exhale at the end of your last sentence). There were some tributes in there, and my share of the vitriolic lashing-out that the internet offers so much of, and that people would almost never do face to face.
My favourite of the vitriol remains a comment on a blog in which, in response to one person’s observation that all texts are political, someone else took it upon themselves to say ‘Yes, even Nick Earls’. I loathe his for their hedonistic empty-headed conservatism!’. I liked the fierceness of that line so much, I gave it to a vile character to say in a short story. (Actually, it was so fierce and so sure of itself that it’s the one time I’ve bought in when I’ve seen a comment like that, to find out what had provoked it. It turned out it was based on a partial reading of one book, written last century.)
But that’s an aside. Over the years, I’ve wondered occasionally how my internet doppelganger has been going, and what he’s been up to. My google alert set for our name (for professional purposes only, of course), very occasionally offers me a sighting and, frankly, I’d be more interested in another fleeting glimpse of his life than getting notification of yet another of my books appearing on eBay. I’d also wondered if he’d ever googled his name and been left bewildered when all he could find was stuff about an author from Australia. (And, if I can make someone almost vanish from google, how would it be if you were, say, a 40-something-year-old guy called Justin Bieber who had had the internet to himself for years, only to be utterly annihilated around 2009 by an Ontario teen? Not to mention the challenges the Indianapolis attorney called Mark Zuckerberg faced when trying to sign up for Facebook …)
I’d had next to nothing on the other Nick Earls for a year or two, and then an email arrived from my publisher. She too has a google alert set for my name, it turns out, and she’d been sent a link that didn’t come my way.
Maybe google didn’t send it to me because they thought I might have gone all badass and wouldn’t handle the content well. You see, there are people in Middlesboro Kentucky and in Tennessee with doubts about the other – yes, the other – Nick Earls, and not for anything as eloquent as his hedonistic empty-headed conservatism. ‘Nick Earls’ is now a topic on the Midddlesboro Forum, along with ‘Fat Chicks Here in MIddlesboro‘ and ‘Crystal Shackelford is a STripper! ‘. Yes, actual topics. (When the Romans came up with the name ‘forum’ for their place of assembly, is this really what they were hoping to foster?)
Just thought I’d mention this in case anyone happens to cruise by http://www.topix.com/forum/city/middlesboro-ky/T85N05GA2CGT8DL0R It’s probably not me, though I can’t deny being ‘a good kid in school’.
So, who else has tracked their internet doppelganger? Has anyone made contact, or friended them on Facebook? My partner emailed hers. I elected to leave Nick Earls to his own devices. Though I am now, of course, checking the Middlesboro Forum for updates every so often.