I’ve never been good at coming up with screennames or handles for myself. I’ve had a lot of them, over the years – and no, I’m not going to tell you what any of them were, because most of them are incredibly embarrassing – but I often used random generators, and never really felt comfortable with any of the aliases I chose.
More and more, though, I’m realising that I don’t really need them any more. I use my real name here, on my blog. I use my real name on Twitter, and I use my real name on Facebook. My MySpace and LinkedIn accounts are under my real name. I guess if I commented much on blogs, websites, or forums, I might still use an alias of some kind, but generally, most of my internet presence uses my name. Is that normal? I think most people I know online blog under their real name, and tweet under their real names, and Facebook doesn’t really stand for pseudonyms…
I’m sort of nostalgic for the days when knowing an online friend’s real name was a sign that the two of you were close. People didn’t disclose their real names often, and they would only post pictures of themselves very occasionally, so getting to know the person behind the screenname was something that took time and effort. Now I can easily pull up at least 20 photos of everyone I know via their Facebook account. I’m not sure that’s a bad thing: using our real names and faces helps us to remember that there are people on the other side of the screen, and might help to discourage some rude or thoughtless behaviour online, but there’s something sort of romantic about using a name you’ve given yourself. It was another way of controlling the way you presented yourself to other people; your username would represent your interests or characteristics or … something. I’ve lost touch with a lot of online friends over the years, and that’s partly because I only remember their usernames.
I love the internet, I love social media, I don’t want to swap Twitter for ChatPlanet or any of the old IRC channels of yore, but … sometimes, I miss the internet circa 1999.
(SSJ Valmar, Warboss Alex, or 420allday, if you’re out there – and, for some reason, Googling your old username! – drop me a line?)