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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

NOWAK: Internet, baby names and the fate of the world

Photo by Rebecca Rebholz //
Photo by Rebecca Rebholz // [email protected]

The Internet controls the lives of nearly every human being on this planet.

Virtually every working individual in this country, regardless of profession, requires a computer and Wi-Fi to function in society. The majority of all communication is done online, whether it be through email or video chats. Some people find love through online dating sites, though attempts at romance on Craigslist are more creepy than anything. Basic essentials for living like housing, clothing and food can all be bought online; that doesn’t even include the countless useless novelties available on Ebay and Amazon.

Needless to say, there is no escaping the Internet’s looming grasp. Now, it even controls the fate of unborn children – to an extent.

Earlier this year, Stephen McLaughlin, a Canadian software developer and expecting father, set up the website for a rather self-explanatory purpose. He wanted to the world’s opinion on a name for his then-unborn daughter.

The page was initially set up as a way for family and friends to give suggestions. But when McLaughlin got the idea to open it up to all of cyberspace, and he found the domain name was available, he knew he had to seize the opportunity.

“I was sitting on the end of the bed after coming home from work and the idea hit me,” he wrote to followers on Reddit. “I tend to be (a) very forward person (this gets me in a lot of trouble lol) and I just blurted it out — ‘Hunny, I am going to ask the internet what we should name our daughter!’”

Visitors interested in taking part, or just curious if the self-proclaimed “crazy man” was serious, could vote on the site once a day for the name they liked best. Charlotte and Meagan were among the more common names. Others were a bit more exotic, like Megatron, Titanuim and Salad. Some “Game of Thrones” fans considered “Amelia Of-House McLaughlin” to be the most appropriate possibility.

But McLaughlin didn’t give complete control to the voters. A disclaimer on the website reads, “Unfortunately internet I know better than to trust you. We will ultimately be making the final decision, Alas my daughter shall not be named WackyTaco692. Sorry guys the wife wouldn’t go for a free for all.”

The site drew hundreds of thousands of votes, with more than 150,000 in the last three months before the birth. Though McLaughlin noted he was “quite surprised by how respectful people have been,” the name that ended up gaining the most votes was “Cthulhu All-Spark.” I wish I were joking.

Had the disclaimer not been enforced, that would have been a most unfortunate — and frankly, cruel — namesake for a poor, innocent baby girl. Luckily, it was. On April 7, McLaughlin and his wife used the second most popular name to welcome their daughter, Amelia Savannah Joy McLaughlin, into the world.

Now, my parents named me Claire after my 90-year-old Great Aunt Clara, whose caring nature and dedication to family traditions continue to inspire our relatives. They chose Christine as my middle name so they could call me “CeeCee” after my mom’s best friend Cynthia, who goes by the same nickname. Claire also means “clear, bright and famous” in French, but whether that has any connection to me personally is yet to be determined.

Most people have similar logical explanations behind their names, whether they are common within a family or have a significant meaning. But when young Amelia grows up and asks her parents about the story behind her namesake, the response will be, “Oh, we let a bunch of random strangers from the Internet decide, except most of them wanted to name you after a monster with an octopus face.”

Amelia’s story may be uncommon, and the notoriety will likely follow her for the rest of her life, but should she — or anyone, for that matter — truly embrace what her parents did? They essentially turned her into a social experiment, leaving a crucial part of her existence up to chance in the vast cosmos we call the World Wide Web.

If we allow the Internet to define our very identities, what part of our lives can be left for ourselves to govern? Over-reliance on the virtual world gives us few opportunities for originality and creative expression. Society could become a technology-run dystopia like those of science fiction, where computers dictate our every action like clockwork.

And if Cthulhu All-Spark was a human suggestion, I have no desire to find out what baby names a computer would propose.

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