Saturday, 9 February 2013

Internet Doppelgängers - when your identity unexpectedly finds its way online

A "that's so weird" blog post

Casually checking how my various internet presences on Blogger, Flickr, Pinterest etc. link up, I stumbled across my internet doppelgänger.

This would not be so strange by itself. I have a relatively uncommon name (I was named after an actress in a horror B-movie from 1989 called The Urge To Kill) - it feels slightly disturbing to hear my name in a song (Genesis, Bob Dylan, you mortify me) or see it in film credits and that's just my first name. On the Google search (25/01/13) to check out the searchability of my blog, 7 of the 10 first-page results relate to me. But I knew it's not absolutely impossible that my full name isn't 100% unique. 

What I found weird about this doppelgänger was that 'she' had written an online article about exactly the same topic I had once written about for an English GCSE coursework assignment back in school. This would be within reason had the doppelgänger gone through the same school system as me - which is specific to the UK and perhaps the region too - and had been set the same coursework, but really, what are the chances? I just don't know.

So what is a doppelgänger?
  1. A paranormal double of a living person, typically representing evil or misfortune.
  2. An evil twin.
  3. A remarkably similar double.
  4. A person who has the same name as another.
  5. A fantastic monster that takes the forms of people, usually after killing them.
 (definitions and picture from Wikipedia)
And who is this person? Lets narrow down the options:
  1. I don't believe in the paranormal
  2. I believe my parents when they say I'm an only child
  3. I don't know what she looks like but...
  4. Same name, same topic.... linked minds??
  5. I'm not dead yet

I then thought, wouldn't it be interesting if I could dig up what my 14-year-old self had written back in that Year 10 English classroom, and see how it compares?

And so I did. 

And in the end, this ghost had existed all in my own mind. 

My coursework was written under the title "Analyse the techniques used by Baz Luhrman in making the new Chanel no.5 commercial. How successful is it in your opinion? Does it justify the huge amount of money it cost?" - everything a school essay question should be...
And this doppelgänger's title was simply "Assessing the Chanel No 5 Mega-mercial". Otherwise, the essay was word-for-word, paragraphs identical. 

For several days I genuinely thought there was another person with the same name as me, who had by coincidence written about the same topic nearly two years after I had. However it turned out that the article published in May 2007 on Helium here was my own piece of writing, originally penned in November 2005 with my scrawly black fountain pen. 

This left me with a far less supernatural, but very real mystery. 

I have no idea, no recollection of how, when or why I might have uploaded this article to the internet, to a website that didn't even exist when I first wrote the piece. 

So what might have happened? I had a brainstorm of the options:

  • A more internet-savvy version of me in a parallel universe has been publishing my school scribbles?

  • I travelled in a time warp to post it?

  • Somebody uploaded my work with the idea that as a set coursework piece, other students might be having a sneaky search for answers online to give themselves a clue on what to write, or simply to plagiarise?

This last option - could it be? Given that Helium authors can earn money if their article garners particularly high numbers of views, this worries me a little. 

On the other hand, having listed the article under my name would have been a precautionary step to avert the appearance of mal-intent. Even so, there would have been someone out there using my own work for their own gain without my consent. 

At this point I just don't know what to conclude. Have I found a piece of internet fraud? Do I just have a really bad memory? Was I more forward-thinking and internet-savvy than I thought I was at age 14? 
I'm not even sure how to convince Helium that I am the real author if I contact them to find out how my essay got there! 

Has anyone else ever found their work in places they didn't expect or intend?  I can imagine this happening in a picture-version, where a photograph of yourself was used as advertising...

If you have come across your doppelgänger, how did it feel to know there is a virtual stranger answering to your own name?

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