Internet Doppelgangers and the Fall From Grace of the Other Nick Earls

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.

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37 Responses to Internet Doppelgangers and the Fall From Grace of the Other Nick Earls

  1. Looks like your doppelganger’s losing friends left, right and centre in favour of the cheapest drugs Midwest America has to offer. What’s concerning is that his life seems to have taken a dive, whereas yours is arguably much more successful. Have you seen that movie Unbreakable? Neither have I, but I remember hearing it’s about an extraordinarily unlucky guy (Samuel L. Jackson) hunting down a man with incredibly good luck (Bruce Willis?), I think in order to eliminate him and restore the balance of “luck”. Or something.

    Maybe you should occasionally appear less secure and/or successful by posting “OMG so messed up right now…. Jagermeister + trampoline = hospital” at 5am on facebook. Instead of jealously rushing to Australia, the other Nick Earls can instead check your update, slam down another beer and mutter, “I hear that, buddy.”

    • nickearls says:

      This’d give a whole new angle to Unbreakable, if the two people had the same name. It’d be a great movie, if it didn’t lead to my alterna-me crossing the Pacific in a drug-fuelled rage ready to cut me down. I’d better get that trampoline, stat.

      • The only flaw in the plan (I just realised now – sorry) is that what with the child safety features, it will be hard for you to injure yourself on a trampoline, even if extremely inebriated. I don’t even know if you can even buy a decent-sized trampoline without those meshy walls. It’s like someone decided that kids knocking themselves unconscious on a trampoline frame or getting tangled between springs isn’t funny anymore.

        On the upside, this might be what finally buries Australia’s Funniest Home Videos.

  2. Alex says:

    I tried to friend one of mine on Facebook once but she never accepted. I’ve also been pretty tempted to email the Alexandra Neill who works at an antique furniture dealer in London. I think I’m the exception to the rule about the midwest (which I agree is mostly the case) most of my Googlegangers live in the UK.
    I sometimes wonder how they must feel Googling our name and finding me- an Australian writer and blogger of just enough acclaim to achieve a precarious domination of the result.

    Incidentally “Googleganger” was Macquarie Dictionary’s word of the year last year.

    • Do you think the Macquarie people deliberately choose words that will never be used again after the year is done? Remember “shovel-ready”?

    • nerdonsafari says:

      I do like ‘googleganger’.

      I seem to be breaking the midwest theory as well – mine’s a fictional scottish woman in an Ali Smith novella. I outrank her on our google search results though, which I think is the main thing.

      Like Karene I wondered whether this was the 21st century version of a portrait in the attic – the more you succeed the further midwest Nick will fall… can you live with this?!

      • nickearls says:

        The way book sales are going in Australia, things are surely looking up for Midwest Nick.

        If I can get another movie up – and people actually go this time – will that put him face-down in a pool of his own vomit? Lucky for him every industry I aim to work in seems like a complete crapshoot right now.

      • I think a lot of us are in the crapshoot right now. I was a finance journalist before being laid off, which means I get to write about how I used to write about people losing jobs owing to multi-sector collapses under the GFC.

        Wait, I got it. One sector’s doing OK. Anyone in need of money, meet me at the Pilbara in WA with shovels and metal detectors. Also looking for people to carry back gold, iron ore and copper to Brisbane (aka mules – how you do it is up to you). Mule-packing experience preferred but not necessary. Will also need snipers to take out those working for existing companies operating in the area (BHP etc). Cyanide pills will be provided should you be caught shooting or mule-packing. The rest of us will deny knowledge of you if caught.

        Finally, a sensible long-term financial plan for struggling Australians.

    • nickearls says:

      For a second I thought you were a genius for inventing goggleganger (but I thought it in an unattractive jealous way, I have to admit).

      And don’t worry, you didn’t miss out on the Midwest. She might not be totally famous, but she’s there: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nick-Earls/116130636130?ref=share#!/alexandria.neill

  3. Danielle says:

    My internet doppelganger plays high school baseball! Ha!

    • nickearls says:

      It’s how they all start. Then an elbow or a shoulder goes, and it’s welcome to the slippery slope.

  4. Kate says:

    Mine’s a an english professor who writes poetry and flits around Australian universities. Last I checked she was in WA. I thought that was a bit google-prescient when I was 19. Occasionally people ask me if I moonlight in poetry but now I’m mostly just frightened when the google alert that I set up without even trying – signed up for an academic website one day and that’s a different story – returned a search perhaps more specificially for me…as in, her name -poetry -place of work that I now can’t remember AND brisbane.

    And suddenly I’m having a moment where my life might be turning in The Net only it’s unlikely that i’ll be stunning superstar with an adopted child in the next decade.

    Moral of the story is, I think if you’re going to have a google alert you should at least be able to see who is googling you. Takes out the creepy factor.

    ps. maybe I don’t mean a google alert. It doesn’t tell me when a site uses my name, it tells me when someone googles it.

  5. Gary Kemble says:

    Via Wikipedia: Gary Edward Kemble is a New Zealand rugby league coach and former player. He has both played and coached the New Zealand Kiwis. He is the current head coach of the Papakura Sea Eagles in the Auckland Rugby League.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Kemble

    (I’m Gary [blank] Kemble – Dad says we couldn’t afford middle names)

    • nickearls says:

      Wikipedia might have given your spot to the other guy, but you appear to have him nailed on google. You scored 9 of the first 10 hits just now. You should go out and shout yourself a middle name on the strength of it.

    • Don’t have a middle name either. No one believes me and I’m assuming you’re treated with suspicion, too. Sometimes, just to get the jump on people who assume I’m lying to cover up something awful, I say it’s Gertrude.

  6. Lauren says:

    My girl lives in California, so not midwest but you know, she’s trying. She’s got one of thos epic American teeth smiles and looks real friendly like, which is why I friended her on myspace back in the years when myspace was cool and we all had glitter profiles.

    We emailed a couple of times, pretty chuffed that there were only two of us in the world, or at least on the internet. It turns out her family is the branch of my family that left Ireland for the USA when my half took off for Australia a couple of hundred years ago. One day, she suddenly stopped replying to my emails after clarifying my lack of religious affiliations and un-myspace friended me. She was still friends with Myspace Tom, so I took this pretty hard.

    Years later and what happens? The cow friends me on facebook, and starts TAGGING ME IN HER PICTURES. And not only are they the most unflattering pictures of her on facebook (perhaps why she’s mis-tagging) but she’s also a pretty big human rights activist, and so I’m constantly being tagged in pictures of starving Somalian children. Part of me wonders if she’s actually just the manifestation of an uber clever charity which creates googlegangers and then friends you and tags you in their pictures to encourage you to donate.

    Long story short I dominate our google listings, but she once met Oprah as part of a feed the children rally, so she’s dominating our life. Good move, other Lauren, good move.

    • nickearls says:

      I’m impressed you can googleslam anyone who’s met Oprah. (That’s my attempt to make up a google-based word in the hope that it’ll end up at least in Macquarie if not in the OED. Remember you saw it here first: googleslam – to dominate another person or entity of the same name with regard to google listing in terms of numbers and prominence.)

      Harsh treatment at her hands though, and she’s a cousin too. Wrong.

    • Nice of this Other Lauren to tag you in facebook pictures you’re not featured in. Rampant mis-tagging is dangerous. I met a group of people in America during Halloween last year and exchanged facebook info so we could later share pictures of the night. Unfortunately I physically resembled one of the girls who was determined to have a 3-day Halloween drinking festival to end all drinking benders. After the trip, back in Australia, I discovered I had been tagged as my doppelganger making out with numerous random bar guys, doing tequila shots, standing on the bar table, etc. All action shots, too, blurred and with long brown hair from behind, same general figure, so it really could have been me.

      To ramp matters up, my recent ex had failed to tell his family (who were on my facebook friends) we’d broken up. His parents, sister etc saw all the photos on facebook and remained quiet; elsewhere, I was hit with an onslaught of “woooooooh you go Kaz!!!!!” photo comments from those I only know peripherally and who seem to think I’d find doing shots off some sweaty guy’s back fun.

      I like “googleslam”, though i’m kind of excluded with my name. Either that or I have utter domination.

      • Lauren says:

        Wow…she tagged you deliberately, that’s extreme! I think (I hope) mine just accidently picks my name not hers.

        Let’s just assume you googleslam so hard you’ve pushed the other Karene Arundell’s out to the backwaters of the internet. Presumably keeping them where they belong!

  7. quokka says:

    Fate has blessed, or burdened me, as the case may be, with two doppelgangers.
    One of them is a successful chick lit author in the UK, with four or five titles to her name so I’m guessing this means that ship has sailed.
    The other one lives here in Brisbane, but (I’ve been told) migrated here from Adelaide.
    It’s been about 8 years since she first popped up, and I’ve yet to meet her.
    She first appeared at the pool where I do laps, then she enrolled in the same tertiary studies as me, then she went on the email list at Avid, and then she joined the QWC. At which point it got spooky because she, smart girl, has an unlisted number, whereas my name is in the white pages for all to find. And apparently we share a trait that I’ve been trying to bust for decades – the girl has irresistible, magnetic, preternatural appeal for Creepy, Dark & Brooding.
    So I started getting calls from all these Rochester types that she’d met at QWC & writers festival events, wondering why I’d never called them back, and wanting to know if I’d ‘edit their work’ (Does that mean what I think it means?) and getting the ****s with me when I tried to insist that I’d never met them before in my life and had not in fact sat next to them at the last seminar on How to Sell your book when you lack talent, humour, sobriety and basic personal hygiene.
    One of them became quite irate, and didn’t believe my doppelganger tale. I suspect he spent the next three days staking out the Telstra pit across the road from Casa Quokka, eating sandwiches and drinking Coke & urinating on the cables, all in the fruitless cause of waiting for my triplicate to appear.
    So I nixed my membership of the QWC, found another pool to do laps in, and finished my degree, thinking that’d cut back on her ability to infiltrate my life.
    Nup.
    Went down to my GP of 25 years for one of those Over 45 checkups where they calculate the odds of you making 50 and if not, what your current state of decrepitude is likely to cost the government, and it turns out she’s on their computers too.
    I wonder, in those over 45 stats, if they factor in the Curse of the Doppelganger, which dictates that when you meet your twin (or triplet, as in my case), one of you must die.
    I console myself with the thought that there’s now a reasonable chance that if and when we meet, there’ll be a GP and a defibrillator in the building to resuscitate the loser.
    Unless of course we cancel each other out, in which case that author in the UK can walk the earth secure in the knowledge that we’ve made it safe for her immigrate to Australia.

    • nickearls says:

      I’d always worry that the meeting might be one of those ‘matter collides with anti-matter’ moments, where the two of you create a human-sized black hole strong enough to suck in large parts of the adjacent universe.

      I wonder what she thinks of you? There must be times/men when you’ve turned up first.

  8. San says:

    I have found three internet doppelgangers (two real and one fake). My real life internet doppelgangers are a Bronx New Yorker (rather than a Midwesterner) and a girl from the UK. Aside from the social media sites I’m so winning on the google front!
    I also have book character doppelganger with the 7th search result on google displaying the unfortunate excerpt “It had been three years since Sanchia Smith had last laid eyes on Caid Hunter’s rangy, sexy body, his powerful Greek ancestry apparent”. Oh dear!

  9. quokka says:

    Well if she follows her current trajectory odds are good she’ll end up here, so you can ask her then.
    Curiously the staff who’ve alerted me to her existence on their computers insist they’ve never seen her, so all I know about her is that we keep different hours – so she’s the night owl while I’m the lark. Nocturnal revelers invariably loathe those who bounce around wanting fresh air and exercise at dawn. Thus all I can be sure of is that she thinks I’m a freak of nature who should be shot by a firing squad, preferably at dawn, as punishment for being awake at that hour.
    Far stranger than the same name doppelgangers, though, are the real ones, that actually physically resemble you. For over 20 years I kept running into people who thought I’d worked with them as a nurse at RBH or central Queensland. Until a few years ago, when a friend sent me a news story saying my real doppelganger had been shot by her husband in the barn out back, when he mistook her for a poisonous snake.
    No charges were ever laid.
    Beat that and play fair.

    • That is undeniably awesome. Once the story hits Australia’s Most Intriguing Cold Cases (this show doesn’t exist yet but we know it will) you can play her in the reconstruction.

      I’ve seen occasional glimpses of people who in some angles resemble me, but not to that extent. However, I’ve seen about four dead-doppelgangers for my old boss. In the first case I used photos to alert my boss and his twin to their freaky shared, non-shared existence. Now I realize that, although he falls into no stereotypical physical class, the boss’s strange features like to reprint themselves every so often. Like God got bored, ran out of ideas and punched our ten copies of a red-haired, pale-skilled face with slightly bulbous pale blue eyes, faint freckles, a nose almost beakish, black-rimmed sharp-looking spectacles, jaw-length dirty blonde hair and a red goatee. “Just put these copies on the 170cm model.”

      “He could be the Truckee River Killer, but he could also just be one of those weird little white guys who look like a serial killer” – Lieutenant Jim Dangle, Reno 911!.

    • Lauren says:

      I remember that story! By far yours are the creepiest of the dopplegangers. Is it at all possible that your other version of you, stealing your doctor and your degrees, may actually just be you sleepwalking? Alternatively, an accidental network crossover with the late night ‘adults only’ version of your Truman show?

  10. quokka says:

    I’m more concerned that it’s an installment of the Highlander series, where ‘there can be only one’.
    If she ever takes up fencing, I may have to move.

  11. Artsieaspie says:

    I have an internet doppelganger, too. I’m actually a Jodie and she’s a Jodi, but given we share a very unusual (and very long) ethnic surname that’s close enough for my money.

    I ‘met’ my doppelganger when I was signing up for work’s employee assistance program, and they insisted I was already on the books even though I’d never been there before. After some protracted wordplay and misunderstandings that would be hilarious in a movie but rather less so in real life, it turned out there’s another me living in Brisbane who works for another company that uses the same EAP agency.

    I’ve never had the balls to friend her on FB.

  12. Pingback: Alert but not alarmed – the power of Google « Lisa Walker

  13. Lauren says:

    So, as a late addition to this conversation, my other Lauren, who lives in California and tagged me in all her pictures, is part of the Invisible Children group who are also now known as ‘the KONY 2012’ people. As I watch the debate about whether people should or shouldn’t donate to the cause and see the film viewing stats soar, all I can think is “well played, other Lauren, well played”. How can I compete with someone who is a part of a worldwide (possibly scandalous) hit campaign designed to save children from brutal murder??

    • Karene says:

      You could start your own cult. If you frame it around Game of Thrones / A Song of Ice and Fire, I’m in.

      • nickearls says:

        Okay, just between you and me, I always wanted my own cult. It’d really help my self-esteem. It’s the only thing higher on my bucket list than having my own action figure.

    • nickearls says:

      Well, that’s game over for your name, I’d say. Unless you can find yourself an even worse villain to video, etc. Or come up with the next boy-wizard-type high-concept billion-selling novel franchise. But maybe let Crusader Lauren bring Kony to justice first.

  14. Lauren says:

    I’ll give her a week. Then I’ll unleash my boy-wizard takes on cult of were-vamp-wolfs in a epically staged musical sing-off (showcasing pop songs mid-eighties – now) tv concept show. That should do her…

    • nickearls says:

      Okay, the other high-concept concepts are now staring up into the stratosphere at that one. Crusader Lauren’s days of dominance are numbered. Bring her down gently.

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