Tag Archive: Facebook

A Sad Coincidence

(Submitted by Skepticality listener Erik Harris)

When I got home from work this evening and logged onto Facebook, I found out that a friend’s dog, Liam, died today. I had the pleasure of meeting Liam a handful of times, and he was a great dog. He really enriched the lives of many people, not just his own family.

Later in the evening, I found out that the father of another friend of mine died. His name? Liam. I never met this Liam, but his son has been a friend of mine for many years, and he’s someone that I have tremendous respect for, so I’m sure Liam was a great guy and a wonderful father.

I found out about both on Facebook, but both are people that I consider real friends, who I interact with in real life, and not Facebook acquaintances who I’ve only met a few times (or not at all). It’s not often that any of my friends lose a family member or a pet, and even more rare that two of my friends lose a loved one on the same day. I can’t say I recall that happening before, even including on-line only friends, though I’m sure it has. But for two friends to lose loved ones with the same name on the same day? As sad as a coincidence as this is, it’s also kind of amazing.

Below are the extended notes provided by cognitive psychologist and statistician Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 271.  Take a look and leave your comments below. Also, please be sure to listen to the podcast for our own hilarious commentary. Also, visit Barbara’s blog ICBS Everywhere, and Insight at Skeptics Society, and watch her on Virtual Skeptics.

At first glance this sounds like something for which we could calculate odds, and perhaps we could if we knew a few more things, such as the age for the gentleman who died. However, there are a lot of questions to consider. For example, although Liam is not a terribly common name, it can be short for more common names such as William. We also have no way to know how popular the name is for a pet, since there are no birth certificates for the vast majority of pets.

But there is an interesting aspect to this story in that the author found out about these events through Facebook, which has greatly increased the average user’s circle of friends as well as the probability that we will learn about such events in our friends’ lives. So, while it may seem as though tragedy is all around us at times, I think that such coincidences have probably always been common, but we are much more aware of them today as we are much more connected to others.

The Popes of Finnish Football

(Submitted by reader Brian Pope)

My name is Brian Pope I am an American and I have lived here in Vantaa, Finland for the past 5.5 years. I play football (soccer for my North American brethren) and am a goalkeeper. A few years ago I got a message from a teammate asking if I had given up on our hobby league football team and signed for a pro club in Vaasa, Finland (Vaasan Palloseura VPS).

Now I believe myself to be a decent keeper but by no means pro level. My teammate sent me a link that announced the signing of an American goalkeeper named Brian Pope to VPS.  I thought this was very entertaining. Through Facebook I was able to track down this other American Goalkeeper named Brian Pope and relayed the coincidence. He enjoyed the story as well.

During this same time, my wife’s cousin, who lives in Vaasa, happened by an apartment where the name on the mail slot said “Brian Pope” and snapped a picture. She thought it was pretty amazing to have another Brian Pope in Finland. She did not know that I knew there was another person by the same name living in Vaasa so I relayed the story to her.

What are the odds that there were 2 Brian Popes living in Finland at the same time both being football goalkeepers? Granted at different levels of football. The fact that my wife’s cousin happened by that mail slot is another set of odds all together.

For reference I was born in 78 and the other Brian Pope in 85.

Below are the extended notes provided by Barbara Drescher for use in Skepticality Episode 203. Take a look and leave your comments below.

The odds of this are a little more difficult to calculate than most of the other “same name” stories that we get, mostly because the frequencies of names in Finland in past years are not easy to find. Both his first and last names are fairly common in the U.S., but I found myself impressed with the coincidences in the story and it is my own amazement, once again, that I think is interesting.

Soccer is an extremely popular sport, so even the fact that few soccer players are goalkeepers should not make this story so surprising. However, there is an aspect of this story that explains my feelings: distance and familiarity. Familiar settings provide frames of reference to anchor us. We are more confident with our estimates of everything from accident rates to salaries when the context is familiar. Finland is not a familiar place to most Americans. Numbers of Americans living in that part of the world are also not available, but who ever talks about moving to Finland? France, Italy, even Egypt are more likely. There is no Eiffel Tower, no pyramids, and no riviera. Finland does not seem exotic. It just feels foreign, and the
lack of familiar context seems to make the presence of such a common, American-sounding name feel more out of place than it probably was.

Doggone Perfect

(Submitted by friend of the blog, Kathleen Scott)

We’ve been talking about rescuing a small dog for about a year. Problem is, neither of us have dealt with a dog in an apartment or ever owned a small dog.  Would we be able to deal with daily walking, greater need for attention, and all the other not-cat traits that come with dog ownership?

One day we were running errands, talking it over in the car.  We decided that what we really needed was a test-dog but it had to be perfect – small, liked cats, house-trained, didn’t chew up the house, etc.

Got home that day to find a Facebook message from a friend. She’s going out of town and needed someone to watch her Pomeranian – who is small, sweet,  likes cats, is house trained and doesn’t chew on things.   We decide what we need, it happens!

(Although it must be said that we had been talking about rescuing a dog for a long time.  We really want a dog in our house and the subject is raised weekly.  It took an entire year before an ideal situation presented itself.)

[EDITOR: Personally I’m shocked at the odds of a small dog who’s house trained and doesn’t chew on things. I have enough gnaw marks around my house to be impressed by that one.]

I live in Los Angeles, CA. My friend who lives and works in Washington DC announced on Facebook that she has a new Twitter account name, so I entered that into the Twitter Find People feature, and followed her. We otherwise were Facebook friends, but I had not been following her on Twitter.

Within minutes, my email showed that she was following me, too. We exchanged Direct Messages. I told her I barely ever used Twitter to announce what I was doing, but preferred to use it like little emails, just for Direct Messages.

My cousin Steve also lives and works in DC. She wrote back the following: “Your cousin Steve (I think) was my Mac instructor the other day. How do I know? We were in my email and he saw you sent me a message.” I immediately thought: The Odds Must Be Crazy 🙂

[EDITOR: The same thing happened to me last week. Only instead of Twitter it was on <CENSORED> and instead of my Mac instructor it was my <CENSORED>. But otherwise exactly the same.]

Status and Likes

Yesterday, I refreshed my Facebook page when I opened it for the first time about 8 PM.

The Facebook Friend at the top of the page was Ben Radford whose status update was about TV shows of which he’s never seen a complete episode. The next one down was an unrelated friend of mine who was saying she now likes the magazine Skeptical Inquirer.

Ben is the managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer. Is that a coincidence, or what?

A facebook friend Jana Morales noticed that I’d “friended” a man by the name of  Trevor Jenkins…  and she commented that I had friended her grand nephew! I asked if she was sure, and whether he lived in Canada, as that’s where my new FB friend is from.

It took awhile to find out, but it turns out that there are well over 100 people named Trevor Jenkins on Facebook, and they are not the same Trevor Jenkins. My new friend and I met on a bulletin board for science writer Gary Taubes, and we are both skeptics; my friend Jana’s grand nephew is the first other Trevor Jenkins that he has known of indirectly, ie known someone who knows someone who has the same name, coincidentally.

(Submitted by friend of the blog, Kathleen Scott)

My husband’s grandfather got into genealogy and tracked down their surname – Engstrom. It’s a regional uncommon alternative spelling of Angstrom. In the ’30s most of the Engstroms had moved to Chicago.

My grandfather moved to Los Angeles in the ’30s but his brother stayed in South Africa. I’ve started to meet the SA contingent through Facebook. Including one Colin Engstrom Scott.

I can’t tell you how weird it was to see my husband’s uncommon surname as my 2nd cousin’s (x times removed) middle name especially as he was born and raised in South Africa. Turns out it’s his maternal grandmother’s surname and that she came from this same area in Sweden.

In the  Sunday April 11th LA Times, there was an article, ‘Prayer vote polarizes Lancaster,’ that I posted on a discussion group. It mentioned the mayor of Lancaster, R. Rex Parris.

The same day, my friend Crystal Von Hagen posted in her Facebook status update that she “just found out that R. Rex Parris is the mayor of Lancaster and is shocked. I remember those crazy ‘let me help you sue people’ personal injury commercials he aired when I was a kid. How the hell did he make it to mayor. Just crazy.”  So one of her FB friends mentions on the thread that he used to live near R. Rex…

How I know Crystal is that her dad was a friend of my boyfriend at work for many years… and her dad brought her over to visit us just a few months before he died; that was about 10 years ago. I never knew where she lived when she was growing up.

She remained friends with us, and when Facebook came along, she and I became Facebook friends. She lives in San Diego, and is not associated with our group. I sent her an email to find out how she learned about R. Rex Parris being the Mayor. Her response is that, by coincidence, she had read the LA Times story the same day.

I think it is a funny coincidence that both she and I posted messages about R. Rex Parris on the same day on the internet.