Growing up, I remember always being one of the unique kids in class — in a lot of ways, I suppose 🙂 — but primarily because of my name. Ari just wasn’t very common. Throughout my adult life, that tradition has carried on, with my name being subjected to many mispronunciations, lots of misspellings and as a source of conversation starter because of its uniqueness.
But the Internet, as it is making the world smaller by the minute, has changed that. I recently developed a couple of online acquaintances through Twitter, in part because of our first name. One of them, Ari Herzog, even started up a LinkedIn group for people named Ari just as a fun exercise in finding ways for people to connect.
As a kid, there were disadvantages to having an unusual name, but as I aged and matured, I realized how many advantages there were, too. Then, just a few days ago, this blog post occurred to me because Ari Herzog and I were both commenting on a blog post we had read. Later, someone else commented and said they agreed “with what Ari said.” The thing is, the commenter didn’t say which Ari he was referring to. It was the first time someone had referred to “Ari” on something and it wasn’t clear they were talking about me.
Those of you with more common names are probably wondering why this subject warrants a blog post. You have lived with this situation all your life, right?
I think this post is more about my losing my individuality attributable to my name though. It speaks in a broader sense to the irony of the Internet. Particularly thanks to blogs, microblogs and social networking sites, the Internet has allowed anyone to create their own space and truly show the world how unique they are — even if their name is Mike, John, Gary, Jessi, or Susan. The irony is that the Internet also is a way to take away the individuality of people with unique names, like Ari.
As this world is getting smaller because of our online interactions, I’m finding that “Ari” isn’t enough for people to figure out who is saying something or who someone is talking about. On Twitter alone, I did a search for Ari and came up with dozens of people with my name. Well, I guess technically, it’s their name, too, but an Ari by any other (last) name isn’t me. I’m one of the crowd now.
Somehow, that’s comforting and yet disappointing.