Names do matter, and surely on social media

QuiztNames, it was believed, don’t really matter. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet, Shakespeare once wrote. But things have drastically been changing, particularly after the advent of social media. Cricketer Zaheer Khan, for example, recently announced his engagement to actor Sagarika Ghatge. And congratulatory messages started pouring on the wall of journalist Sagarika Ghose instead. Interestingly, Indian coach Anil Kumble and Khan’s current IPL franchise Delhi Daredevils were leading the pack on Twitter before they realized and deleted the posts.

The Snapchat-Snapdeal chaos is a glaring illustration of confusion, rather ignorance, prevailing across the social media. After Snapchat’s CEO Evan Spiegel was accused of saying that he didn’t want to expand to ‘poor nations’ like India and Spain, social media users started down-rating Snapdeal instead of the chatting app.

The case involving Singer Sonu Nigam, who stirred up a storm when he tweeted his displeasure over being woken up by the morning Azaan, is yet another example of mistaken identity. His remarks on “forced religiousness” sparked a lot of anger and debate. All thanks to the hashtag #BoycottSonu, Twitterati got confused between Sonu Nigam and Sonu Sood, and many started trolling the ‘Happy New Year’ actor instead.

The case of mistaken identity had almost ruined the Indian Premier League (IPL) dreams of a promising young cricketer, Harpreet Singh. The social media news updates had mixed up the names of Mumbai left-arm spinner Harmeet Singh and in-form Madhya Pradesh batsman, Harpreet Singh. This had resulted in Harpreet not being chosen by any of the IPL franchises in February this year. During the IPL auction, several news portals had misreported Harpreet Singh as the cricketer who broke the law as he drove a car into the Andheri station. But it was, in fact, Harmeet Singh, who allegedly drove a car into the Andheri station. Though the names in the news updates were corrected later but it was too late. Royal Challengers Bangalore has finally signed up the Madhya Pradesh all-rounder.

Thus, more people are getting worried and cautious about their names as it may make or mar their career. A few of them are doing it offline and for entirely different reasons. The new Uttar Pradesh chief minister’s name plate outside his residence was changed around half a dozen times in less than a fortnight of taking charge of the state. It was changed thrice from Yogi Adityanath to Aditya Nath Yogi to the latest Yogi Aditya Nath just before he made an official entry into his 5 Kalidas Marg home on the first day of Navratra – the nine day period considered auspicious by Hindus.

Amending names is too common among celebrities and politicians in India. But think about the level of confusion among public if there were two prominent people from the same field with exactly same names. During a city council election in Japan early this year, two independent candidates had identical names. Both men were known as Shigeru Aoki. There could be many ways to write a name in Japanese with the same pronunciation. But in this case both — the older incumbent and the younger newcomer —used the same Chinese characters.

Votes were cast by writing the candidate’s name on a ballot paper. Two avoid confusion, election officials asked voters to add their preferred candidate’s age, or the words “incumbent” or “challenger” to their ballots to clarify their choice. Later on, ballots with unclear distinctions or none were split between the two Aokis in proportion to their clearly identifiable vote totals.

Just wondering what would have been the case if a similar situation had arisen in India. Imagination is simply running wild, particularly when one visualizes their social media pages.