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.


  1. Wait...Did you not even TRY to pretend to be him for your own ill gotten gain? I mean, like, send me $100 and I'll give you an A? Haggis, ol' dog...you are slipping. You are a disgrace to the Brotherhood Alliance of the Devious and Demented (BADD). Your membership will be reevaluated.

    Oh, the annual rubber ducky hot tubbing and ill gotten gains show and tell is being held next weekend. I hope you can make it.

  2. Naw, I felt bad for my alter ego. Those strokes were meant for him, not me. I mean, sure, I could have conned those kids out of their lunch money, but then I'd be called a bully and the incident would be put on my permanent record.

    Hey, by the way, I found a new one today. There's actually a Nigerian scammer using my name. I.Am.So.Proud!

  3. The real me showed up as number 7 in the list. There were actually a couple of interesting ones. An event planner, and a painter/photographer. Mostly references to a character in a movie.


  4. I'm not even sure where I show up anymore. I've got listings for both my professional life and my writing, but I seem to remember having to go through at least three or four pages before I hit one of my own.

  5. I'm a ego surfer. My alter egos are far better than me, so I like to pretend I'm the makeup artist in Hollywood, or that I have a PhD. :D
    So far, no one has confused my email with anyone of importance. Knowing my luck, if my email address ever does get mixed up, it will probably be with a convict's.

  6. So, if MisterBastard Googles uglyratdog...

    Uhoh. The hard drive just burst into flames. Too many hits.

  7. Ms. Sempere, I have no doubt that your alter ego would most likely be a tattoo artist with an unsterilized needle, a serial killer or a gun moll. And if I'm right, I want to be the first to read your story about it. :)

  8. *buys MisterBastard a Chihuahua*

  9. *fires up grill*
    Now all we need is salad and a side dish.

  10. My real self shows up as number five on the list when I Google. Number one is a listing for an actress on IMDB, there are a few for someone who does stained glass windows, and a lot for someone who was born in 1665 (isn't it lowering to know that someone born three hundred and fifty years ago has more internet presence than you do?), and someone who left a polygamous marriage.

    But the most interesting case of mistaken identity is with someone who is my age and lives in my home town. I've gotten her hydro bill, calls about her student loans (and she uses the same bank as I do...), and a call from a drunk at four in the morning trying to console me for the death of my husband. Hers had died earlier that day after getting into an altercation at a plaza, coming home, and having a heart attack. The man had been present at the plaza, and had told her husband to go home and rest, and was horrified to find out later that he'd had the heart attack.

    I spent over an hour telling him that no, it wasn't his fault, and that the real widow would not appreciate a phone call at four in the morning...

  11. You were very patient with that drunk,Ruth. And I promise I'll never call that early in the morning again. :)

  12. Haggis, you have been deemed strange. Stop by my blog for your award.