You know how we're constantly warned that anything and everything we put on the internet can come back to haunt us? Whether it's a semi-scandalous photo on Facebook or that one cranky tweet, it's all part of an eternal file ready to bite us in the butt.
Last week, I discovered just how random that eternal file can be.
I got an email from someone I'd never met or heard of — the father of a girl whose baby picture I used in this March 2010 post about popular baby names in 2009.
The post pointed out how many of the TWILIGHT characters were in the top 50 most popular baby names, showing the influence of YA lit (and one particular series) on mass culture.
I distinctly remember that, when writing the post, I wanted to add a photo, since I'd read before that people who see a photo in their feed reader are more likely to click on the post to read it.
Marketing maven that I was trying to be, I figured an adorable baby picture would be the perfect addition.
What innocent motivation, right?
I literally Google Image-searched "cute baby" and clicked on my favorite. This baby girl's photo was actually posted online as part of a cute baby contest (meaning the parents were fine with sharing the photo with strangers around the internet), and as a bonus, I noticed that she had a very unusual, science-based name.
It was fate!
I uploaded the photo, linked back to the contest page where I found it*, and mentioned her unique name (which, honestly, I said I wasn't a fan of, traditionalist that I am with names).
29 comments later, the post had a spirited back-and-forth debate on our favorite and least favorite names, and the worst names we'd ever heard of in real life. (Trust me, this baby's name wasn't even close to the worst!)
Screech back to the present, over two years later.
For curiosity's sake, the baby's father occasionally tracks his daughter's photo's whereabouts on the internet He found my post and emailed me about it. You can imagine my surprise reading the email.
My past came back to haunt me all right, but I soon saw that it was a friendly ghost. Whew!
Instead of being upset about my (and others') criticizing his naming choice, he totally understood the subjectivity of baby names. He explained the name and pronunciation (which I actually understood and remembered from high school science, go me!), told me that his daughter is now six years old, and even attached a current photo of her and her younger sister!
(If you're wondering, both girls' names are science-related, but they go by much more neutral nicknames. But the first day of school's roll call must still be an adventure!)
Anyway, I wrote him an equally cheerful response, thanking him for reaching out to me. And Bill, if you found this post, thanks again for livening up my day and giving me new post fodder!
Our exchange reminded me that:
1. Even the smallest, most innocent choices you make can turn into something bigger than you intended, even years later.
2. The internet makes the world a ridiculously tiny place. Treat everyone like your neighbor, because they basically are.
I'd had an experience like this once before, again in the early days of the blog, when I wrote a random post about a funny, duck-related promotional mouse pad. Suddenly, I received a pleasant email explaining the mission of a wetlands conservation group, when I was just being silly and procrastinating from writing my novel. Go figure!
Has anyone else had such an unexpected response to a post? Share it in the comments!
ADDITIONAL LINK: What perfect timing! Here's a related post via QueryTracker.net on the more serious side of how internet posts can be damaging.
* Updated: Even though I linked back to the source, that doesn't mean I had the legal right to use the photo. My knowledge of licensing and copyright laws has grown a lot, and the photo in this post was found via Creative Commons!