SUNDAY, MARCH 8TH, 2020
DIGITAL IDENTITY AND YOU
Inquiring minds would like to know!
THE LATEST SCOOP
Who are you? Can you tell me?
No, not your real name. Not your astrological sign. Not your top ten favorite movies.
What was the first username you ever made?
Do you remember why you chose it? Do you still use it, or did you discard it for one reason or another? Do you even know what it was anymore? Is it too personal to share? Does it have a history you regret, or wear proudly?
My first username, as best as I can remember, was likely 'buggiezzz18', which I briefly used for Roblox before making another account a month or two later because I said 'hell' in-game and got scared of being banned. (I was 9 years old.) I do remember making the account, and more importantly, making the username up on the spot. No idea what it meant. I think I just thought bugs were neat, z's were neat, and the number 18 sounded nice. Like many first usernames, it was a product of my baby child mind making a first attempt at an identity all my own, far before I really understood the weight of a decision like that. The nicknames it might incur, the gender people might assume from it, or the way the content might make you look as people scour the trail you left across the internet with it.
Unlike my later accounts, I still have access to Buggiezzz18. I briefly play on it every now and then, to see what Roblox has become, since my main account was hacked years ago without my knowledge. I've had a lot of names since then, but my most recent name, Roseknight, is the product of intentional choice. I thought about it for days. I went through many alternatives. It doesn't have the childish whimsy of my old moniker. I imagine that those of you using names you created at an older age might feel the same. There are even many people who just go by their real first and last names, despite what we were told by our parents about giving out personal information. But this is the age of 'influencers' and social media sites asking for your real name, so it isn't exactly surprising.
I asked the Neocities Discord about this, and Kryptonaut said, "swisscheese2008. It was 2008 And I had Swiss cheese in my sandwich. I was in the eighth grade." Caby said, "my first username was garfield122, bc garfield is cool and 123 was taken." Yudosai's first usernames had their real name and something to do with nintendo. I think these are all very lovely responses. There's such a genuine charm to them. Ammy said, "the earliest username i can remember making is onemancheese in 2011 cause of coach calling himself a one-man cheeseburger apocalypse in my favourite campaign of left 4 dead 2." It seems a lot of first usernames involved cheese. In a deviation from the norm, Mace486 said, "my first username was mace486. I wanted it to be mace but it was taken so I entered 3 random numbers after it and now here we are today."
I wanted to see whether there were any interesting articles about digital identities and first usernames. All I found were thinkpieces warning you about the information companies take from you, articles explaining how to change your username on various sites, and a handful of threads asking people what their first usernames were. Dozens of marketing posts about why you should keep your username, your 'brand' consistent. Is a username just a type of password, only there to identify you so you can access various online services? Or is it something more? I think it can be something deeply personal. I've had some online friends for over six years, and they've called me a name, GA, a shortening of an old username, for the majority of that time. That name means more to me than the dead one my parents gave me, that I've thrown away. It might even mean more to me than the real name I chose for myself, Rose. Everyone's username means something different to them, and it takes on new meanings long after you create it. Most people have some kind of silly little story, about a choice they made out of the blue which ended up defining them. I think that's wonderful. Maybe some of you aren't cheesecurd390 or sonicandtails2001 anymore, but you were, once upon a time.
I did manage to find one thing about usernames, though. A scientific paper analyzing whether having an inflammatory username, or a username with a year in it, corresponded to being a mean player or being that age respectively. Surprise surprise, they found that both were true. While the paper focuses on League of Legends and gaming specifically, it holds a lot of insight into how your username really does say something about you. Definitely give it a read, if you're interested!
I gave up my old usernames when I made Roseknight. The baggage associated with them was just too much. You could find my real name, where I lived, every cringey thing I'd ever done, and so much more. I don't want that person to be me anymore, but I know in my heart I'll never fully let her go. This is Roseknight, or maybe it isn't, signing off. Thank you for reading the Inquirer.
SUNDAY, MARCH 8TH, 2020