My name is technically not TwinHits. Unless one has very strange parents, one would expect a more normal name for a person. But, alas, this is the internet and here on the internet, we name ourselves.
It’s not so much in the tribal sense of the word, there is no ceremony where the elders gather around the youth who has ventured onto the web for the first time, laying their hands on his shoulders and delcaring him ‘Starman2000’. Rather, it’s a very personal act. It’s what comes to mind when you stare at the required and empty name field when you start a new play-through on your RPG, or sign up on a new website, or even name your computer so it’s recognizable to you on your home network.
These are the names that define the cyber-citizen, because it is the name that divides the online person and the offline person. With a name comes a personality, completely separate from your real offline identity. These personalities take on a life of their own, the actions of that name are distinguishable from the actions of your real name, and they are not connected to each other. Anonymity is the key, when I run into a person on the street, I don’t see a list of his online alias. More importantly, when someone sees TwinHits on a forum or a in a game, it doesn’t reveal my real name. Separate identities lets one become separate people, different personas for different situations.
This is because this is a freedom, freedom from social views. Wherever one goes, one builds up a public persona that precedes them into the room. Everyone views them through the lenses of that persona. Moving away, changing schools, or changing jobs allow you to start all over and build up a new persona. However, in the infinite wisdom of my mother, you’ll always end up back where you started. The internet offers a release from this endless cycle, each name is a new start. With each name you can build up a new persona. Maybe on one website, someone want to post pictures of cats in funny poses, but on another they have serious discussions about technology choices for non-profits. It wouldn’t do for those to be connected through a single name, so they simply use a different name.
Recently, as I wrote about last time, Activision-Blizzard announced that their official forums would pull real names from posters accounts and use those instead of user-picked screennames. As expected, the netizens protested the loss of the freedom to choose their own name. Blizzard quickly recounted after the mass protests and withdrew the idea. The message was clear: real names are for the real world, screen names are for the screen world.
I don’t think that this will always stay the same. As the internet generation grows up, some will find that their screennames will be more important than their real names. At which point, it would be wise to draw a line connecting the two names. If I someday become an influential blogger, I want that accomplishment to not just be TwinHits’, but John’s as well. Therefore, I have no fear of my name being connected to TwinHits (lets be honest, it would probably take five minutes of Googling to figure it out anyway). However, I offer a warning to websites around the web. Don’t take away from your users the rights to their name, let them be who they want to be and present the side of themselves that they want to present.
My name is technically not TwinHits, but why’s that matter? It’s still me anyway.