Celebrity Name Doppelgangers: Facebook Ruined My Name!
When our Name Lady wrote to a mom distraught because her daughter Miley's name was ruined by Miley Cyrus, she (the Name Lady) conceded that the celeb had "taken control" of the name Miley, and advised the mom the let her daughter choose a new nickname. A vulnerable teenager with a celebrity-name-induced existential crisis: that's rough, right?
Now imagine you're a successful midwestern lawyer with a weird last name and your own law firm. You've built your "name" and professional reputation over years until you gained national status. Your law firm dominated search engine stats for your name: Mark Zuckerberg. Now. Imagine it's 2004 and along comes Facebook, built by Harvard whiz kid, Mark Zuckerberg. Imagine how your Google rankings will tank, your business eclipsed in public imagination by The Social Network. Nor will that the be the end of your trials.
Attorney Mark Zuckerberg temporarily lost his Facebook account on Wednesday because of his name: an unusual name, it is nevertheless also the name of Facebook's founder. Since Facebook has a policy of policing celebrity websites to keep people from putting up fake ones, attorney Zuckerberg's name raised flags for an employee, who yanked the account.
Which was the reason that, back in 2009, attorney Zuckerberg had had to provide extensive documentation, including his birth certificate and Indiana Bar Association license, even to get a Facebook account. The good news: shortly after news broke "the other Mark Zuckerberg"s account had been yanked, it was reinstated with an apology. But what can we learn from this digital Big Lebowski tale? That random name caprice can hit a business owner hard.
You may remember that in The Big Lebowski, our abiding hero, The Dude, whose other name is Jeffrey Lebowski, is mistaken for a different, richer Jeffrey Lebowski, and held accountable for this Jeffrey Lebowski's debts. This launches him on wacky, interesting adventures.
When Mark Zuckerberg, the lawyer, was mistaken for a different, richer Mark Zuckerberg, the wacky adventures on which he was launched included 500 Facebook Friend requests per day (many from overseas), as well as angry phone calls and even legal papers -- all intended for the more high profile Zuckerberg. Ultimately, Attorney Zuckerberg told the Indianapolis Star, Facebook was responsible for breaking up his marriage. On the other hand, the lawyer said that after giving his name to the hotel desk, he was treated very well in Vegas.
(Are we the only ones who notice that Indiana is turning into quite the hotbed of naming stories? The state also made name headlines recently when the city of Fort Wayne declined to name a federal building after an important town mayor whose name happened to be Harry Baals. In that case, we can all see the problem.)
The Zuckerberg case, in contrast, is a cautionary tale for namers because, at first glance, Mark Zuckerberg's parents did everything right. With an unusual mouthful of a last name like Zuckerberg, name lore suggests using a simple, well-liked, popular first name for balance. Even so, had his parents made a different choice for their son--say, Englebert Zuckerberg--maybe the Indianapolis bankruptcy lawyer's name wouldn't have lost so much Google ground.
We've asked before if a name can seal your fate. The Zuckerberg case brings home a painful truth for Name Enthusiasts: carefully as we may weigh and choose, we can't control the name's fate. The meaning a name will have in society 20 years hence is unimaginable. So lighten up, and enjoy the process.
Do you know anyone with the name of a famous person? Have you been mistaken for someone else with the same name?