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Jourdan Vian: Leave Jessicas alone, names don't mean much

Jourdan Vian: Leave Jessicas alone, names don't mean much

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Jourdan Vian

Jourdan Vian, La Crosse Tribune Reporter

The year was 2016. The meme was National Random Name Day. The concept was ridiculous.

How I long for the positivity in that ridiculous meme.

In November 2016, the non-news side of Buzzfeed.com was spreading a meme that celebrated random names. The site shared a meme that was a photo simply reading “Happy Sarah Day! Tag a Sarah!” Two days later, it shared another meme with the same exact words, except “Jess” was swapped out for the name “Sarah.”

It made no sense, but I embraced a “If you can’t beat them, join them” attitude by naming Nov. 19 “National Jourdan Day,” and we moved on.

Clearly, that was a mistake, and the internet simply took that as permission to get even weirder.

Trending Friday on Buzzfeed was a post titled, “15 Anti-Jessica Tweets For Anyone Who’s Ever Crossed Paths With A Jessica.”

Don’t worry, all of you who celebrated “Jess Day” back in 2016. You’re not left out of this one either, as the subheadline helpfully reads, “Yes, this also applies to all Jessica-adjacent names, i.e. Jess, Jessie, Gesika…”

Putting aside the ellipses abuse, I dove into the post to find out what’s wrong with Jessicas. Apparently, they break up with people, carry purses, like horses, get in fights and are generally untrustworthy.

Sorry, Jessica.

I don’t quite get it. I’m fairly certain that tons of people like horses and also have been known to get divorced, and most of them are not named Jessica.

In three short years, we’ve gone from randomly celebrating people with certain names for no reason to randomly mocking people with a certain name for no reason.

We’ve got Beckys, Karens and Chads, all of which have weird stereotypes attached to them.

I really feel like we can stop there. There’s no need to drag Kyles, Tiffanys or Jessicas into it.

It’s such a weird stereotype. I know dozens of Jessicas and tons of Tiffanys, and each one is, if not a unique butterfly, at least their own person. These traits that get assigned to them aren’t limited to people of that name either.

Do people think that a name really shapes your personality that much?

Answering that question led me down a rabbit hole, where I discovered names could have something to do with physical features.

According to a February 2017 article on National Public Radio, experiments that ask participants to match names to faces show people can do so correctly 35% of the time. The article features a study authored by Yonat Zwebner, a social psychologist at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Zwebner told NPR that his team ran the study a dozen times, even once running it through a computer algorithm. The algorithm found that people with the same name tend to have similarities around their eyes or at the corners of their mouths.

Psychology Today posits that your name can influence your choice in romantic partners, political contributions and places of employment. A 2016 article says people whose names resemble each other are drawn to one another, which makes people more likely to marry people who have a similar name or donate to a politician who shares their initials.

I’m skeptical, myself, but I’m happy to see someone is looking into it.

However, my research did not reveal any evidence that your name shapes your personality.

I did find an article from the dubious NewScientist.com that claims people make assumptions about your personality based on your name. According to that website, people view people named Mark, Matthew and Emily as warm and competent, and people named Brent, Whitney and Regina as low on warmth and competence.

No offense meant.

There is evidence that names associated with certain races are treated differently based on stereotypes, not according to the peer-reviewed Journal of Education Psychology, but again, nothing that says those stereotypes have any basis in reality.

Can we please stop picking on people based solely on their first name, something they typically did not choose anyway?

Jourdan Vian can be reached at jvian@lacrossetribune.com or follow her on Twitter at @Jourdan_LCT.

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