Monday, November 21, 2016

My Adventures in Ego-Surfing

The term "ego-surfing" dates to 1995 and refers to using internet search software to find public information about yourself. The main reason people search for themselves is that they're curious about what other people see when they search for their name. And the truth of the matter is that unless you are famous or have an unusual name, there is always someone of the same name more famous than you, a person who dominates the first screen of search results, and possibly every screen after that. (Imagine being one of the dozen or so Donald Trumps in this country.)

Let's start with my exploration at www.howmanyofme.com, a site that identifies frequency of first names, last names and full names without delving into any identifying information. According to this site, David is the seventh most common given name in the United States, given to a tad over 3.8 million men. Wow! Mark is far less common as a surname, with an estimate of 19,100 (Marks scores 58,000). The website goes on to estimate that there are 226 people in the country named "David Mark." A cruise through Facebook and LinkedIn confirms multitudes. Could be worse: being named "John Smith" means you share a name with approximately 47,000 other men. Or be among the 37,600 women who share the name "Mary Smith."

A pivot to the search engines confirms that I am by no means the most famous, most searched, David Mark. Foremost among my name-mates is David Alechenu Bonaventure Mark, a senator in the Nigerian government since 1999. Depending on which accounts you read, he has been either a pillar of stability and competence in a tumultuous government, or a volatile and perhaps corrupt official who has accrued a fortune in offshore accounts. Senator Mark was a strong champion of the Same Sex Marriage Prohibition Bill, passed into law in 2014.

Even for searches for "David Mark" limited to authors I am not first nor second nor third. David Mark is a U.S. born, Scotland residing, one time crime journalist, now novelist, known for his D.S. Aector McAvoy series of crime fiction books. Mark's debut novel, entitled The Dark Winter was published in 2012. The lead character is a Scottish policeman in the city of Hull, employed in the Serious and Organized Crime Unit. Mark types fast, as his fifth and sixth McAvoy books saw print this year and he is already working on a seventh.

Next on the authors' list is David Mark, political journalist, author and public speaker. His career began as a reporter in Washington, DC. For six years he as a senior editor at Politico. Mark's latest book is Dog Whistles, Walk-Backs and Washington Handshakes (2014). It decodes what politicians really mean when they use odd-sounding, insider-ish phrases. His first book was Going Dirty (2006), a history of negative campaigning in American politics and an examination of how candidates and political consultants have employed this often controversial technique. He may need to come out with a revised version after this most recent election.

Third on the authors' list is David Mark, founder and chief editor of Israel Rising, an Israel-based, pro-Israel media organization. And then me. 

Finally, I searched records at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to see if I share my name with other alumni. Turns out David Mark got a BS in electrical engineering and is now with The Boston Consulting Group, a second David Mark was a Research Associate at MIT while completing a fellowship at Harvard Medical School, and a third David Mark completed a Harvard-MIT MD and PhD program. Add me, and there are enough of us for our own reunion.  

So, set out on your own adventure in self-Googling, but expect to be surprised, perhaps dismayed, by the antics of your doppelgangers.

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