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Same Names, Different Paths

Photo by Matthew Serafin

Photo by Matthew Serafin

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One mundane day, I decided to give my social media profiles some much needed tender love and care. I made the executive decision that it was finally time to take a creative leap of faith and drop the “23” from my original Instagram username, carolinewhite23, that I had settled upon in seventh grade when I first downloaded the app.

When I finally deleted the numbers and hit the enter button, I felt surprisingly liberated. Kinda like Kesha when she finally dropped the dollar sign from her name. It was the end of an era. That feeling was short-lived, however, when I found out that the username “carolinewhite” was already taken. In a fit of annoyance, I typed carolinewhite into the search bar. The account had zero posts, zero followers and no profile picture. I can say with absolute certainty that whoever made that account is the worst kind of person.

I tried username after username, and all the good ones were taken.

Defeated, I started cyber-stalking the people who took my usernames away from me. In some strange way, I felt connected to these other Carolines. We shared a name, but did we share anything else? I wanted to find out. Without much thinking, I added around 20 Caroline Whites into an Instagram group chat and sent a message: “I’m sure you’re wondering why I gathered you all here today.” In retrospect that could have been less creepy, but it worked.

Less than five minutes later I got a response, and to my surprise, people kept responding.

Why did I do that? Why would anyone ever do that?

Well, for one, I was just genuinely perplexed by the fact that I wasn’t the only Caroline White out there. Second, and most importantly, I wanted to know who was winning. The answer is not me.

There are Caroline Whites in New York, Pennsylvania, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, Texas, California and Guatemala. One was a background dancer in the music video for the song “My Love” by Majid Jordan and Drake, and another is taking a gap year before college to travel the world and do service.

For the past two years, those of us who haven’t left the group (aka those of us who aren’t lame) have talked off and on about a variety of different things. We’ve talked about our birthdays, namesakes, nicknames, our annoyance at being mistaken as “Carolyn” and our mutual distaste for the song “Sweet Caroline.” Not to mention, in all that time, I’ve only ever gotten one hate message.

What I gained out of this experience, other than a few loyal Instagram followers, is a new understanding. You can talk to your friends and your family about almost anything, but there are some things only complete strangers who share your name can understand.

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