It’s the dirty little secret of the Internet Era that sooner or later you’ll type your name into Google Search to see what comes up. You can’t help but wonder if you’re just a teensy bit famous, at least in your own little world. And of course you’ll want to know what people are saying about you so you can drive yourself batty trying to correct the record.
I was recently interviewed by a reporter and I’ve been searching for the article to see how I’m quoted. Because I’ve been Googling my name more than usual, I can’t help but notice how many other Gary Holmeses there are in the world. I also can’t help but notice the photos that pop up under “Images for Gary Holmes”: several pictures of a middle-aged white guy, several pictures of a young African American man and one photo of a naked woman.
It turns out that that the white dude is a remarkably successful real estate tycoon in Minnesota; he’s so rich that he endowed the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Minnesota. The young black Gary Holmes is a football player in Florida. And the photo of the naked woman is an example of the work done by a well-known photographer in Australia (see photo above for an example of his work. That’s not a self-portrait, in case there is any question.)
So at best I’m the fourth most famous Gary Holmes. I can live with that as long as that football player doesn’t become super-famous in a Tom Brady kind of way. I’m sure there are a lot of Tom Bradys out there, all of whom, every time they are introduced are subject to raised eyebrows, smirks and idiotic questions. I once knew a lawyer in Washington named William Clinton – no joke. His professional life was seriously complicated when Bubba came to town and sucked up all the Clinton-related oxygen. I don’t know whatever happened to that other William Clinton because it’s impossible to Google him and not get references to the former Prez, but it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that he started going by his middle name.
The advent of the Internet has obviously brought us a lot closer – sometimes to the point that we’re piling on top of each other. In the early days of AOL – back when it was a legitimate email address, equivalent to what Gmail is today – I snagged the email address firstname.lastname@example.org. It seems the previous had given it up for reasons that became clear only later. Soon I started to get email addressed to that other Gary Holmes. I once received a heartfelt “Dear Gary” email from his mother affirming that the family knew he was going through difficult times because he was in jail and so forth, but that they all stood by him. It must have been a large extended family because they kept including me on mass emails for family reunions, viral jokes and community news. I tried to get off these mailing lists but it took at least two years – probably that’s when the other Gary Holmes got out of prison.
This raises the issue of how dangerous it can be to have the name of a criminal. As I recently scrolled down the list of Gary Holmeses, I came across this extremely disturbing headline from the Huffington Post: “Gary L. Holmes Arrested For Beating, Raping Coral Springs Mom As Baby Lay Nearby.” Another felonious Gary Holmes! (This guy was only 19 so couldn’t have been the convicted Gary Holmes who had my AOL address 15 years ago.)
We’ve all heard stories of people who can’t pass airport security or get a mortgage because someone with the same name is a suspected terrorist or jaywalking scofflaw. That’s why I’m glad the headline writer included the middle initial of the alleged rapist. That “L” helps differentiate me from a sexual predator. In fact, it occurs to me now that’s probably why the news media usually refer to famous assassins and mass murderers by three names (Lee Harvey Oswald, Mark David Chapman, etc.) – to prevent confusion with the innocent Lee Oswalds and Mark Chapmans.
If I were younger and more concerned about my personal brand, I might deploy some search engine optimization tactics to move myself up in the Gary Holmes rankings. Maybe I’d even write a blog! But that seems like a lot of work just to claw myself up to the position as the third most-famous Gary Holmes. Certainly I have more important priorities – like getting more Twitter followers or Facebook friends.