These days, everybody has a Twitter account, from A-list celebrities down to the guy who runs the gas station around the corner. That's a lot of people -- and a lot of usernames. And because the internet works on a "first come, first served" basis, that means that sometimes regular folks wind up with clean usernames, while their more famous namesakes have to settle for "Al_Gore420." But being mistaken for someone famous on the internet isn't all fun and games. It might mean you'll wake up to millions of people asking you why you just denied the Holocaust while trying to explain to an angry mob that you're not the guy who starred in Lethal Weapon. Here are some of the worst cases of mistaken twitdentity.
Ask your average American who runs the UK, and they're likely to tell you that it's a person going by the name Queen, The. (No relation to Rock, The.) Actual British citizens would correct them that it's Prime Minister Teresa May. Teresa? Theresa? In this case, spelling the name correctly is important, as it means the difference between referring to the leader of Great Britain and a porn star.
As opposed to the tight-lipped Conservative PM, Teresa May (@RealTeresaMay) is an actress who makes her living by getting her boobs out on camera and is most famous for starring in the infamously pornographic music video for the Prodigy's hit "Smack My Bitch Up." But despite causing an entire teenage generation to need a change of pants in 1997, Boobs Teresa mostly gets attention in form of outraged political questions all year 'round.
The conflict between Brexit Theresa (@theresa_may) and Boobs Teresa dates back all the way to 2000, when the two were both invited on a radio show, a medium neither woman is at their best in, to talk about the confusion. When Twitter became a thing and Brexit Theresa was elected to the highest office in the land, both the confusion and hate intensified.
It's so intense, in fact, that UK publication The Mirror felt the need to release a PSA educating readers that the naked lady from the '90s is not responsible for Brexit negotiations -- which is only a relief to some.
It's one thing to share the name with a famous person, but what really sucks is being twinsies with a fictional character. We can't imagine how frustrating life must be for a Jack Shepherd, a John McClane, or a Forrest Gump, who can never jog in peace without some dickhead shouting catchphrases. Fortunately, thanks to the popularity of fantasy and sci-fi shows, this is becoming less of a problem. After all, how many (non-strippers) are called Daenerys Targaryen, anyway? Well, ask Jon Snow, famed British journalist, what he knows about it.
According to Jon Snow (@jonsnowC4), the real one, the day Game Of Thrones premiered was the end of his social media life. Since then, his Twitter account has become nigh unusable, constantly flooded with messages from oh-so-clever people who pretend they're tweeting at a fictional bag of hair with a fancy sword. At least, most of them are pretending. Some genuinely seem to believe that Westeros is one of the continents they didn't bother learning about in high school.
How big is the onslaught? If Jon Snow features prominently in an episode, the real Snow says that he can get "many hundreds or thousands" of tweets in a day, all talking nonsense about direwolves and white walkers and calling him the King in the North.
Jon Snow via Vice
Luckily, the real Jon Snow has a sense of humor about the matter. Despite the fact that the Oxford-educated politics reporter now gets told on an hourly basis that he "knows nothing," Snow doesn't mind, retorting, "I'm a journalist -- thus I know a lot about a little, and not very much about anything. Which I suppose adds up to knowing nothing at all."
When 29-year-old Nashville resident Riley Curry (@rileycurry) started a Twitter account, it was so he could keep up with the news. A little while later, he discovered that he shared a name with a somewhat famous person: Golden State Warriors NBA star Steph Curry's (@StephenCurry30) daughter. Fortunately, Riley Curry is just a precious little girl, so Adult Curry must've thought "What's the worst that could happen?" Some random person tweeting at him that he looks so adorable sitting on his daddy's lap?
Nope, a shit ton of vitriolic hate mail and death threats, it turns out.
According to the Adult Riley, this all started in May 2015, after a press conference during which Steph brought his daughter up to the podium. Fans were infuriated by Baby Riley's adorable outspokenness, calling her an "attention craving brat," as though she was deliberately raiding the stage like Kanye. But plenty of sports barnacles decided to take it one step further and cyber-stalk the toddler, hurling abuse at what they assumed were her Twitter and Instagram accounts. Of course, it makes sense that the digital knuckle-draggers who would cyberbully a kid couldn't figure out that a two-year-old wouldn't be gramming selfies.
Naturally, this flurry of abuse caused Adult Riley to sink into a deep depression. Not because some morons with NBA team logos for profile pics said nasty things to him. No, what saddens him is the fact that the internet is so unscrupulous that it will even go on a warpath against a small child. That's such a refreshing mix of decency and naivete to find from someone on Twitter.
Weirdly, being confused with a sex worker wasn't the only story about Theresa May and typos that Twitter screwed up in 2017. British tabloid The Daily Mail has a reputation for being one of the most wretched "newspapers" in the world, an accomplishment that comes with an ample helping of social media hate. Unfortunately, one African paper found out that much of that hate is only one minor rage-typo away from hitting them.
In March 2017, The Daily Mail (@MailOnline) ran a front-page story on a meeting between Prime Minister May and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and decided to focus the article on which one of them has the sexiest legs. The article was immediately condemned by critics, who figured that the two world leaders' legs probably weren't the most newsworthy thing about this meeting.
The Daily Mail
A mob quickly formed on social media, with many people voicing their discontent at the exploitation and rampant sexism perpetrated by The Daily Mail. But they weren't the only paper getting a lot of flak for it. The Daily Mali (@MaliDaily), as the name suggests, reports on local issues in the African nation of Mali. However, the paper went global when it became collateral damage in the hate campaign against The Daily Mail. As a result, whoever runs the social media accounts for the African paper were extra confused when they woke up to an onslaught of hatred from people too outraged to proofread.
Nevertheless, they did take the opportunity to give their own opinion about the world's scummiest publication while they redirected haters to the proper target, proving that The Daily Mail's shitty reputation is known worldwide.
Virginia computer scientist John Lewis was lucky to snap up the Twitter handle @johnlewis, considering how there are so many John Lewises out there that, statistically, one of them is reading this sentence at this very moment. (Hi, John.) In fact, it's such a common name that there have been scores and scores of famous John Lewises throughout history. But, uniquely, being mistaken for another person is the least of @johnlewis' online woes.
In the UK, "John Lewis" (@johnlewisretail) is the name of one of the biggest department store chains in the country. Surely, that can't be all that bad, right? After all, who would ever tweet at a department store? Dissatisfied customers, that's who.
But the occasional angry support request is nothing compared to the wave of comments Virginia John gets once a year. You see, the department store is known for something other than providing high-end items at slightly-less-than-high-end prices: Christmas cheer. Every year, the store releases a highly produced tear-jerking TV ad, which over the years has become a minor cultural event in the UK. So while the rest of us are getting ready for the season of giving, Virginia John gets ready to receive thousands of these:
So each year, like he's a department store Santa too ethical to take the props for the big man in the North Pole, the kind and (very) patient Virginia John takes the time to respond to the barrage of people thanking him for the John Lewis Christmas ad. Over the years, it has even made him a minor internet celebrity, with people making it their annual tradition to wish him best of luck in the days before the ad drops.
In 2016, the store even sent him a free gift package as thanks and apology for his years of service.
But that's not the extent of John Lewis' Twitter problems. In January 2017, prominent civil rights leader and U.S. congressman John Lewis had some choice words to say about President Trump. Trump, as he is known to do, hammered back at Lewis on Twitter. That's when Virginia John started having to fight his war on a second front. Sadly, John is having a lot harder a time bringing the Christmas cheer to racist Trump supporters ...
If you happen to have the same name as someone in Donald Trump's confederacy of assholes, then it's likely you started having a bad time on social media last year. Since Twitter began way back in 2006, a whole bunch of people naturally signed up accounts under their real names, not realizing that they would suffer an unending torrent of rage a decade later because their names matched up with someone associated with one of history's most controversial presidents.
Just ask Steve Bannon. No, not the one who resembles an artist's rendering of what toads would look like as the dominant species. We're talking about @SteveBannon from Scotland, a random guy who, sadly, lessened Trump's jaundiced former chief strategist's pile of hate mail by receiving a bunch of misdirected angry messages.
Meanwhile, Baptist pastor / surprising early adopter Stephen Miller managed to snag @StephenMiller in time to get bombarded with hateful messages which users meant to send to Trump's policy advisor of the same name. However, Miller then managed to spin all the negative attention to launch a charity fundraiser that raised $1,300 to adopt and bring over two Chinese children. Using your media platform to do something good for immigrants might be the most effective way to prove you're not a Trump crony we've ever seen.
Then there's the Florida software developer born with the unfortunate name of Mike Pence (@mikepence), who gets bombarded with daily abuse for his Christian fundamentalist anti-gay views. Which is ironic, seeing as this Mike is a pretty vocal pro-LGBT atheist.
But it doesn't even have to be that close a match for those in the red mist of online abuse. An Australian morning TV show host named David Koch (affectionately known as "Kochie" in the Aussie tradition) eventually lost his patience with Americans on Twitter confusing him with one half of the notorious Koch brothers at his handle @kochie_online.
Somewhat ironically, several journalists have also been getting hate meant for the very people keeping trying to implode the mainstream media. Washington Post columnist John Kelly (@JohnKelly) has to constantly redirect angry tweets meant for his White House chief doppelganger, as does Fox News contributor @StephenMiller. And for some reason, journalist Kelly Andersen (@kellyamedia) with Fox 45 in Baltimore has been bombarded with hate tweets targeted at Trump's campaign advisor Kellyanne Conway, all because they share just a few letters in their names and both prop up poisonous autocrats for a living.
But no Trumpian Twitter twin is as wholesome as Eric Trump, British schoolteacher and breadmaker. Whenever he becomes overwhelmed by hate aimed at the dopiest Trump heir, he responds with pictures of freshly baked bread and cakes, an act so nurturing and wholesome that no one could possibly believe he's Donald's American Psycho cosplayer of a son.
The John Lewis in Congress also wrote a book called Walking With The Wind that's well worth the read.
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