The Internet has made the world a smaller place. Instantly, everything - and everyone - in the world is practically at your fingertips.
This definitely applies when you find out that you aren't the only you - there's another you out there somewhere, your digital double. A digital double is someone (or something) with your same name that exists in cyberspace.
For example, Warren's Mayor Michael O'Brien, when searching for news about ... himself, may stumble into the Web page for Mayor Michael O'Brien of Winooski, Vt., or Canadian Councillor Michael O'Brien of New Brunswick. Seems like many Michael O'Briens get into politics. Also, it's probably safe to say that Jim Traficant of Florida, vice president of Harris Corporation's Healthcare Solutions, is tired of jokes about his hair. His name comes up in Google searches for the former congressman. U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan would find that Timothy Ryan is also an assistant professor of biological anthropology, geosciences, and information sciences and technology at Penn State University. Dr. Timothy P. Ryan is chancellor of the University of New Orleans, and Timothy E. Ryan is a retired NFL defensive lineman and is now working as an NFL analyst.
The same goes for places. Want to learn more about the famous Hot Dog Shoppe? First you have to weed your way through Web sites about the Hot Dog Shoppe in California (complete with the old-timey "shoppe" spelling), or the one in Beaver, Pa.
Running into another Joe Somebody online can be interesting, in terms of finding a kinship with others who grew up with the same name, had the same nicknames, and wore the same monogrammed sweater from Grandma as you.
The connection can also run a lot deeper. Witness: The Jim Smith Society.
Jim Smiths the world over can all belong to this exclusive club, which has a Web site (www.jimsmithsociety.com), annual meetings, and even a motto ("We don't shun fun!"). In a 2008 interview with the Tribune Chronicle, Jim Smith of East Berlin, Pa., told of the perks of being amongst other Jim Smiths. The group uses the Web site to stay in touch with the Jim Smiths and to recruit new Jim Smiths. There's no shortage of Jim Smiths to be found online.
Looking online for a same-name match can end in more than just a good time, however. This year, two Kelly Hildebrandts - one boy, one girl - met while searching their own names on Facebook, and now plan to marry.
Having a digital double can also be a headache. For example, if you want to start a Web site about yourself or your business, your digital double may have taken the domain name. If you want your e-mail address to contain your name, you may have to get creative with punctuation and numbers (ex.: "k8lyn_smith"). Opportunists known as "cybersquatters" will buy up e-mail addresses and Web domain names of common names so that rightful owners of that name will pay big bucks to get them. Walmart, Nike and Apple have all had Twitter names taken by people who definitely aren't the CEOs, but hope to cash in on their quick action. Pop idol Madonna took a cybersquatter to court to get rights to the domain name www.madonna.com. The average Joe might not be so lucky.
Same goes for social networking sites. Nick Jonas, 23-year-old college student, had a barrage of Facebook friend requests coming in his inbox on the social networking site, all from girls thinking he was the same Nick Jonas of the screamworthy Jonas Brothers. College Nick Jonas would often have his account shut down while his mom was getting dozens of phone calls from fans. Through a twist of fate, College Nick Jonas was eventually able to get backstage and meet Superstar Nick Jonas and tell him his tale of woe.
How can you find out if you have a digital double? Go to www.howmanyofme.com to find out. This writer performed a search of her first and last name on the site and found out that "one or fewer" people in the United States has the same name. Good to know. There are, however, at least 215 Dave Thomas-es according to the site. Facebook is also full of Dave Thomases, around 500 of them, some of which are fan sites for the late Wendy's founder.
It may be easy to find a double with the same name, but what about the same face? Coca-Cola has a program through Facebook to find your actual double. The program scans photos of you available on your Facebook profile and uses them to find another user who looks like you. You can also upload a photo from your files or from a web cam to find a more accurate match.
So, if you go looking for your digital double, good luck - it may end up a bust, or you may end up forming a club, getting married or getting a lawyer.