Social Question

wundayatta's avatar

What's in an online name?

Asked by wundayatta (58349 points ) October 28th, 2012

I’ve been on any number of Q&A websites, and they all have different policies regarding names. On Askville, you can change your name at any time you want. On Fluther, you can change your name once. On Quora you have to use your real name. I don’t even know what the rule is on some of the other places I’ve signed up.

So what are the advantages of various rules? What is the advantage of making people use their real name? Why make people keep the same name? Why allow people to change names at will? I’d like to focus on advantages of each system, since that is sometimes harder to figure out.

If you know of other systems, please let me know what they are, too.

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13 Answers

Fred931's avatar

Oh God it is awful on Steam. One day Dusty becomes Hazard, then An Average Bhopping Butthole, then Shady Slim, then BBQ Nite… I only recently found out that I can tag a permanent name to these assholes.

Also, I think my brother was on and added someone I did not know. I kept pestering him/her and s/he got extremely pissed off when I talked to him/her in my usual tone I take with the much more (Im)mature people who bother switching names every hour, trying to figure out who this person was. I wound up blocking him/her.

Unbroken's avatar

Good question, well not changing your name or changing your name a limited amount of times could help eliminate confusion. The people on the site think of you by your screen name, in real life that might evolve to nicknames, but they would be the one initating the change. How ever allowing you to change it once or say every 6 months allows you to fix a name that you might regret, or feel you have grown out of. Instead of having to choose to ditch the account or live with a regrettable (tattoo or brand) as seen from your pov.
Can’t think of any benefits of forcing a user to use their real names. I mean I guess it would be the best way to hold people accountable. But seems aggravating to me.

wildpotato's avatar

I think one advantage of the requirement of using a real name is that it encourages people to engage one another on a more human level. I like knowing your real name and some other users’ real names. It’s interesting – I have this impulse to write, right now, “I’m ____, by the way; pleased to meet you” – which I’m not going to do because I am extremely hesitant to share my real info on the Internet – but I think it illustrates my point, that it seems to me like this would be our “actual” introduction, despite the fact that I’ve known you for years.

The advantage of making people keep the same name seems obvious to me – even here on Fluther, where people tend to pick a pattern of names, name changes often become confusing. When I look at old threads the @ links become disjointed due to name changes. And I would never have known Mama_Cakes is the same person as Jude, for instance, if I had hopped back on the site a few months later than I did. And are you sure about the one-time name change thing? What about all of zen’s names, or CyanoticWasp’s? Or is that because they abandoned the old accounts? At any rate, it gets confusing.

I think the advantage in allowing people to change their names at will is that they want to, and sites live by catering to what people want. It’s interesting to think about the disjunction between real names and screen names – people change, and feel like they should change their sn to go along with it. Or they don’t think they got it right on the first pick. But these concerns rarely make people want to change their names in RL. One could argue that people are simply less attached to their online identities, but I don’t think that is the case – I am very attached to being wildpotato, and I know others who are likewise invested in their Internet selves. I think it’s a matter of the online identity being something that is supposed to be more fluid – something we can play with in a safe way, in this particular environment. Because it’s not very safe at all to play with one’s own identity in real life.

VS's avatar

My local newspaper has recently taken to accepting only comments from people who have a Facebook account. I think it was done in an effort to keep things civil. I mean, if people actually know WHO you are as opposed to just being some random whatever that can change their name with no accountability, it keeps the comments much more in line. I believe in freedom of speech, but not to the point of being able to yell “FIRE!” in a crowded theatre. Same with the internet… I believe in free speech, but not to the point where you can call people names, make hateful or obvious racially devisive, or gender bashing comments.
Incidentally, VS is simply a shortified version of ValleySailor which is my name all over the internet. I try to make it a point to not insult people or make hateful comments, so I feel like I have nothing much to hide.

Coloma's avatar

Well…if anyone cares, my real name is Laurie, but Coloma is here to stay. haha
I see no point in changing ones name if you are a regular participant on a site, it just confuses others. Now changing avatars is a whole different ballgame. I change mine a lot as I like variety.

ucme's avatar

Vowels & consonants…..sometimes even numbers.

Shippy's avatar

I wouldn’t like to use my real name for sure. I can understand changing a username as we change over time. I might not be a shippy next year!

flutherother's avatar

Within 5 minutes of inventing my username here I hated it and have regretted it ever since. I just didn’t put any thought into it at the time. But keeping usernames gives some consistency so you don’t lose track of who is posting which is important here. I change my avatar all the time but I do like the expression of my yellow bird and will keep it for a while.

flutherother's avatar

@Shippy I like yours too and I liked your original avatar with the ship.

glacial's avatar

I find it quite arrogant that some sites “demand” that we provide real names. In my opinion, no social media site has any right to that kind of personal information, and I regularly deny it to them on principle.

augustlan's avatar

Just an FYI, anyone who doesn’t like their name can contact me and I’ll be happy to change it for you. As @wundayatta mentioned, though, we generally only do that one time, and we ask that you post a note to your profile ‘story’ saying who you used to be… just until people get used to your new name.

@wildpotato The wasp and the zen both start over with brand new accounts each time. ;)

RareDenver's avatar

Once a RareDenver always a RareDenver

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