Well, the advert for this Channel 4 documentary made it look fascinating. I was sucked in. Much like the ‘twins’ depicted, this early opinion didn’t stand up to much scrutiny.
This series of experiments was based on the strange new function of social media. Now our photos are available fairly publicly online, and we have a lot more connections with all parts of the world, we are likely to see many more ‘twin strangers’. This show was inspired by that now-famous moment that went viral on Twitter – two ginger beardy guys on a flight to Galway delighted to have found their doppelgänger. Look how happy they are!
Initially the credentials seemed good. The experiment was to take place at the Department of Twin Studies, St Thomas’ Hospital in London. But how his would further twin studies wasn’t clear. The scientific techniques used quickly descended into a game show format – who would be the most identical? Who cares?! The 1% solution of science was diluted over and over again. And so it became homeopathy – the absolute absence of science.
The people who actively went looking for their twins, which is a thing we do now apparently, were a bit lonely. The sadness that they never had a close sibling manifested as rather desperate narcissism. The person you met off the internet is not your sister, however much you think they look like you. And just because you look alike doesn’t mean you’ll be best friends. It was very forced and quite sad.
The people who had ‘twin-ness’ thrust upon them seemed nice, personable people. The retired priest Neil and the ex-headmaster John from Braintree, Esseex who had been constantly mistaken for each other in their town. The gay guys Darren and David, who both ran nightclubs, one from Scotland, one a Polish-born Londoner. The stand-up comics Rob and Kobi were from different sides of the planet, who were so closely aligned by DNA that they probably shared the same Great-Great-Great Grandfather. Strange coincidences piled up (my favourite being John’s and Neil’s sons both play the didgeridoo!) but humans are hard-wired to look for patterns in all situations, so this wasn’t unexpected.
And this is what the 2D and 3D testing by computer facial mapping couldn’t account for – our desire to see patterns, similarities and coincidences. And how people’s movements and mannerisms made them look even more similar, even if they only had 40% similar noses or 30% similar mouths.
But you don’t have to listen to me. I’ve got some form of prosopagnosia (aka face blindness), as Mr H is always delighted to point out when I can’t work out if I know someone or not because they’ve changed their hair or got glasses. It also makes things especially difficult when watching tv so I have to pay close attention, especially in ensemble dramas with a cast of thousands. Maybe these guys were all actually dead ringers for each other, and the whole thing was lost on me? I doubt it though.
Finding My Twin Stranger is available on All4 for another three weeks. You can always see what you think.