(because I’ve got three real ones I use endlessly)
My username on this site is my real name; my PSN is JamesPCasey (add me if you’d like); I’ve recently changed my Steam name to JamesPatrickCasey. Noticing a pattern here? As much as I don’t like plastering my full name over everything I do, I’ve found it preferable to using an online alias, which as led me to the conclusion that I kinda hate usernames.
For a long time, I was Thumby; on some sites, I still am, old accounts on Armor Games or Mousebreaker that are settling nicely into the dust of mid-teenage James with his addiction to online gaming. Sometimes I’ve warped my surname into a username, and sometimes I’ve stuck numbers onto the ends of ‘thumby’ or even in place of the ‘b’ in a godforsaken capitalised variant reading ‘THUM3Y’. And I’ve realised that this is all a bit shit.
I’m not a random non-word derived from an in-joke with an old friend of mine, and I’m certainly not a real name with a number tacked on the end. Using a single word to define an individual is bad enough, but if we’re going to buy into this system for practical necessity, I might as well use the few unsuitably meaningless words that are on my birth certificate and passport, rather than introduce new unsuitably meaningless words to the mixture, doubling the amount of pointless self-identificatory crap in the world for no reason.
There’s also a practical element here; if I’m playing with friends, I don’t want them to have to remember which random combination of numbers and leetspeak refers to me. It’s not difficult, but it provides an additional cognitive obstacle to identifying me than if I was using my real name alone.
I’m also, to put it pretentiously, becoming a bit of a brand online. I’m ‘James Patrick Casey’ on this site, and my writing blog, and I’ve asked to be credited as such in all the publications I write for, and am a few steps away from sticking my middle name on my uni essays like a proper wanker. For someone who’s so heavily and broadly involved in saying and doing things online, it helps if I can unite all of my words and actions under a single name, rather than be James on this blog, Thumby on that site, or CODSUCKZ101LOL on another.
I understand, however, that a lot of people, particularly younger or less self-confident people, will find comfort in using an alias; if they’re uncomfortable sharing personal details on the Internet, I’m not going to have a go at them for doing so. But I’m fairly comfortable with myself and my own failings, and have no problem with sharing bits of my life online for random strangers to read; you’re going to judge me, regardless of what I say or do online, so you might as well have an accurate name to apply your judgements to.
Altrnatively, I could have been lying to you all the time, and my real name is Alison Louise Lancaster, and I live in a sparsely-populated town outside of Portland, Oregon.