Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ego Surfing and a Case of Mistaken Identity

Admit it. You do it. And if you say you don't, you probably don't masturbate either, which means you're either a saint or a liar, and I don't know too many saints.

Ego surfing, or vanity Googling, is when you plug your name into a search engine, hit enter and see what comes up. It's a fun way to spend a few minutes, and although it may be habit forming, it doesn't grow hair on the palms of your hands.

I'll admit to being a seasoned ego surfer, and every so often I find a new and interesting addition to my collection of alter egos. On occasion, I even find myself. "Myself," I'm sorry to say, is not really named "Haggis," but has a much more common name, which probably accounts for the large number of hits I find.

Here are some of my favorites:

An artist.

A composer.

An exceptionally talented photographer.

A Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorist.

Several attorneys and corporate executives.

A former star baseball pitcher. Actually, there were two MLB players who shared my name, but one sparkled only ever so briefly, then disappeared into the ether. The other had a solid major league career.

A highly respected model maker.

A former TV news hound in my home town. I wonder how many of my high school friends thought I grew up to be him.

A number of Town Councilors and, I believe, an unsuccessful candidate for parliament in Britain.

An east coast heating and cooling guy with a shaky reputation.

A troubled college student who probably shouldn't have brought that gun onto campus.

And a college professor.

I came here to talk about the college professor today.

I knew of him for some time. He's well known and respected in his field (English Literature), and he's widely published. So when I began writing and submitting for publication myself (genre trash, not literary works like the Professor), I didn't use my proper given name as I had originally planned to do because that's the name he writes under. Instead, I used the nickname for my first name, skipped the middle initial and added my last name. Of course, I still used my full name in my Gmail account.

A few months ago, I received an email asking me questions about the entries for a short story contest that had been run by an eastern university. Now, I hadn't submitted to that contest, so I was a bit puzzled. Then the next mail came.

"The place is not the same since you stepped down as chairman," the writer said.

Chairman of what? I wondered. And then the other emails followed.

We had the job seeker, the colleague asking for a reference on a possible new hire and we had the fawning grad students. Yes, my email addy was somehow being mistaken for that of the college professor.

It got worse. My email address was in the university's online catalog under the Professor's bio and course descriptions. But this gave me the leads I needed to finally get hold of the right person to make the appropriate changes so the good professor could start getting his email again.

A couple of weeks ago I received yet one more email, but the course catalog had been changed, and I now had the professor's real email address. I responded to the sender, copied the professor and we all had a good laugh over it later. At least I had a good laugh over it. I'm still wondering how disappointed those grad students will be when they find out they wasted their fawning on a horror writer with a lowly BA.