DemosNews: Bodysnatching Nowadays
Bodysnatching Nowadays
By: TheYetter

The most offensively appalling thing happened to me: I found myself on the internet.

I had a girl over, and whimsy made her look me up on the web. Months ago I had the same impulse, so I knew the half dozen traces of random interest that constituted a basic background check. A theater review, a Latin translation, a few fleeting collegiate dabbles. Nothing that got at who I am. I looked over her shoulder and stared blankly at the result that squatted over this bric-a-brac: my full name… dot com.

“Oooh,” she was excited. I was nervous. What is my name doing as an internet site? A click, and my world shuddered. I was staring at the goofy gaze and tacky tenets of the life of someone with my exact name. The violent emotions that pounded me in wave after ugly wave as I—and the girl!—moved through the doppelganger’s site are almost ineffable. Horror crossed with insult, dishonor, and despoilment comes close. It was tantamount to sheer identity theft.

Now it should be mentioned that this bloke is no ubermench, no rockstar, no hero with whom a degree of casual overlap would be a point of pride. He is, as he asserts with relish, a copycat. He flaunts his (poor) mimicry of the oils of Van Gogh and Gilbert Stuart alongside coy computer graphics. Worse, on top of every page of the site he slaps an absurdly florid crest with my initials. In short, masquerading in my name is a tacky fool with the self-important gall to make a dot com of himself.

Is it gall, though? Or, especially given my passionate reaction, is it prescience? Does doubling oneself as a URL in a preemptive strike make sense, literally preserving the dignity of one’s name? This fellow—let’s call both of us Jonathon Doe…. This parrot John Doe has seized the most obvious indication of who we are, and it is he, not I, whom people see when they ask the great engines of the web to find me.

What’s in a name? Shakespeare famously let Juliet beg as much, riffing on the great question of identity. Twinning, masques, epithets, titles, married names—in its endless permutations, naming has provoked thought and judgment since time immemorial. We are named with intention, after all—with allusion and with hope.

The issue of the parrot Doe couples this with another great theme in the trajectory of humankind: the internet. We happen to be living during an age of information dispersion tantamount to those following the inventions of letters and the printing press. Suddenly, the remote ends of the earth have an unheard-of immediacy. (This site alone speaks to the point.) It is also historically democratic. The office of the President of the United States and Coca Cola and the shady John Doe have equal rights and access to publish material on the web.

With this immediacy one feels the presence of sites with a distinction not evident in, say, the reference section of a library. Since there is no one to censor or qualify the aping Doe, his seizure of my name becomes an unchecked intrusion that can (and did) come at the most inopportune of times!

What’s in a name? As much as one makes of it, I guess. With a girl in the room and a slaphappy parody parading my name across the screen, I recoiled in prideful rage without recourse. Defamation by proxy! Scoundrel accountability! Unholy circumstance! But in this open market, perhaps I share responsibility by my inaction. I warn you : inoculate yourself against a similar fate. You never know whether some John Doe might steal your self.

© 2021 TheYetter of DemosNews

April 8, 2007 at 2:53am
DemosRating: 4.5
Hits: 1807

Genre: Perspectives (Sly Views)
Type: Critical
Tags: internet, names, identity, theft

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