Facebook's Doppelgänger Week Is Viral Groupthink

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When I logged in to Facebook this week, I was greeted with updates from such friends as Mariah Carey, Natalie Portman and Ryan Gosling. Exciting, right? Except that when I clicked through, it was clear that these posts were from my same, lame no-name friends who were simply jumping on the latest Facebook bandwagon. Yes, it is (or was, as these things don't exactly have strict expiration dates) Celebrity Doppelgänger Week on Facebook, during which people replace their profile picture with the celeb they think looks the most like them.

Think is the operative word here. I love my friends, but trust me — it's a motley crew that little resembles anyone casting directors would want to put in a feature film. But more disturbing than the creative liberties they took in choosing their twins is that this is just the latest example of how my friends — and hundreds of thousands of people around the world — are susceptible to Facebook groupthink. Before celebrity twinning, there was post-your-bra-color day. Last year there was the 25-facts-about-yourself oversharing festival. And on the heels of all this doppelgänger madness is Urban Dictionary Week, which has already prompted dozens of my friends to look up their first name on the popular alternative dictionary and post the horoscope-like results.

Now, there's no official Facebook theme team, decreeing these silly fads from on high. These are grass-roots memes that spread virally throughout the site, making them difficult to trace back to an origin with any certainty. The Huffington Post published what appeared to be the transcript of an interview with Bob Patel, an IT worker who says his resemblance to Tom Selleck prompted the start of Doppelgänger Week. But the claim (and the transcript itself) is dubious — the article is even tagged as "satire," but that hasn't stopped blogs and news organizations from citing Patel as the instigator.

Murkier still was what prompted Facebook's bra-color phase. In January, thousands of women posted the color of the bra they were currently wearing, a disclosure that was somehow supposed to support breast-cancer awareness. Never mind that National Breast Cancer Awareness Month is October — this was Internet slacktivism at its finest, a pointless gesture that raised no money and took no tangible action. The only people who seemed to benefit were my male friends, who suddenly started posting the Facebook equivalent of a thumbs-up sign on many a status update.

But fine. I'll admit it — curiosity got the best of me, and I tried to figure out who my celebrity doppelgänger would be. My first strategy was to ask my friends who they thought I resembled, but the suggestions (Dame Judi Dench, Rosie O'Donnell and "whoever the biggest Hollywood douchebag is") were less than helpful. Then I turned to MyHeritage.com, which has developed a celebrity match tool that compares any photograph you upload to the ones in its celebrity database. My top look-alike? Cuba Gooding Jr. Given that I'm a pasty, undersized white kid, I'd say MyHeritage clearly has some work to do on its algorithm.

Disillusioned now more than ever, I sought refuge from Facebook's celebrity lemmings. Turns out there are other people who feel the same way. I'm now a proud member of the (deep breath) "Everyone is making fun of your 'Doppelganger' pic behind your back" group. We're three members strong at the moment, but give it time. If Facebook has proved anything, it's that these things have a way of catching on.