Thursday, April 10, 2008

Googlegangers are Us.....

When I was growing up everyone in Toronto who had our surname was related to us. My family name is unusual. Last year on our first ever roadtrip, my sister (who joined Miguel and I) would check every night in the hotel phonebook for people with our family surname (neither of us ever changed our surname). Sometimes we would see the name – could these people be related to us? We would always laugh when we found our surname....should we call them up and see if they would invite us for dinner? Do they look like us? Would they want to meet us? Despite my unusual name, a google search shows there is one other person with my identical first and second name – and I must say, I have always been curious about her. Have you searched your name and found people with the same name? Did you have an urge to find out more?

The NYTimes today examines how the web has made it easy for people to search out those with identical names. “Bloggers muse about their multiple digital selves, known as Google twins or Googlegängers (a term that was the American Dialect Society’s “most creative” word last year).”
The article asks “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.”

And something I have never heard of - 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. Here is an example: during the 2000 presidential campaign, people whose surnames began with B were more likely to contribute to George Bush, while those whose surnames began with G were more likely to contribute to Al Gore.

“It’s what we call implicit egotism,” Dr. Pelham, who is now a writer and researcher for the Gallup Organization said. “We’ve shown time and time again that people are attracted to people, places and things that resemble their names, without a doubt.”


Anonymous said...

I have checked for my surname from time to time. Initially, it was to confirm that the spelling is correct. I had been told over the years that the spelling was incorrect and an immigration officer who was not able to translate from the Ukranian had phonetically created the spelling. This does not seem to be the case, there are others with the same spelling. I have thought about contacting them and asking them about their background. Since I have no relatives except my brothers it would be nice to have contact with others. My cousin in the Ukraine, who we had never known about, found us when my step-father died but once it was apparent that we were not able to help her get to Canada contact ended. Sad, would have liked to have a relationship with her.
I do envy those with large families.

Anonymous said...

Nora, you are probably right about large families,but after a somewhat long day from hell with two teenagers when I could do nothing right, a small, functional family of one looks good.