Josh Kaplan

Josh Kaplan? I am semi-stalking you

It’s natural in these lonely times to form a mild fixation with people with whom we share a name


Josh Kaplan meets Josh Kaplan in 2017 (Photo credit: Josh Kaplan)

February 15, 2024 10:33

A couple of years ago, Josh Kaplan got married. I saw it on my Instagram, it was a beautiful rooftop ceremony in a chic Los Angeles hotel, there were hundreds of guests, a radiant bride and a glorious day in the sunshine was had by all. I wasn’t there.

The Josh Kaplan getting hitched was simply one of my many (usually Jewish) namesakes. There’s Josh Kaplan, the CEO of a footwear company. Josh Kaplan, the professor at Harvard. Josh Kaplan the partner at the London law firm and even, much to my chagrin, Josh Kaplan the accomplished ProPublica journalist whose scoop on Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas kicked off an entire US political debate about judges’ conduct. If you put my name into LinkedIn, you’re greeted by a chorus of smiling faces, each more humblebraggy than the last. A cornucopia of Kaplans. The point is, there are a lot of Josh Kaplans.

And it’s not massively surprising. Josh as a name was hugely popular in the 1990s and Kaplan is a solidly Jewish surname that has been kicking around in Israel and the diaspora for generations. When my parents picked the name Josh, they probably thought very little of it. But thanks to their decision back in 1994, I’ve now imagineered parasocial relationships with these random men all over the world. I know for example that footwear Josh Kaplan has recently secured a $30million round of investment for his new company, and that a Josh Kaplan who lives in Brooklyn was part of a vastly successful media startup called Morning Brew.

It’s plainly ridiculous, but I feel a small sense of pride when I see these Josh Kaplans do well. It says nothing about me or my own middling journalism career, in fact often times I’m rooting for these men to succeed in my own field, against my own interests. I check in on them sporadically.

In the summer of 2017, when attending a conference in New York, I met Josh Kaplan. Ignoring the fact he was slightly (read way) more attractive than me, we took a photo that I like to show people when I explain my insane following of the coterie of Kaplans. It’s not unusual for people these days to follow people tangentially linked to them on social media, keeping them in a digital enclosure like characters in a low-budget reality show. I have a friend who monitors women in the same field as her in what she calls her “apiary” — a birdcage of professional envy. It might sound strange but it’s a very accepted form of phone-based entertainment.

I thought of my Joshes last month when Californian wine brand Josh spontaneously erupted into a deluge of memes. I wondered if they were also getting texts from everyone they knew, and felt we’d be cosmically bonded by this random social media flurry. I’m sure I’m the only Josh Kaplan thinking this. In fact, I hope I am.

It may sound somewhat insane to try and confect a community based on something as arbitrary as a name, but in a way isn’t that we’re all doing every time we play Jewish geography with a stranger? We’re fostering a connection with someone who happens to share a characteristic over which we have zero control. We may have a few bits and pieces in common, but chances are you’re totally different. This contrived bond can often develop into something very wholesome and enriching. It may even see you (I mean me) working at a Jewish newspaper for more than two years without ever meaning to.

The world is becoming more atomised, people are lonelier, the average under-30 says they have between zero and one close friends. It’s bleak out there. Add into that October 7, which has shattered long-standing friendships left and right. So why not try and find a few more connections wherever you can? You don’t have to do something as bizarre as to covertly surveil those with the same name as you, but we could all stand to make a few more friends. What’s the worst that could happen? Josh Kaplan — I’m here for you.

February 15, 2024 10:33

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