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Screen Names

I think far too much about the use of screen names and usernames.

My first introduction to the internet was being given access to AOL's kid-friendly version, KOL, and it was then that I had to decide on my first screen name. I admit to not having the best recollection of how things went from there, but I feel like it was perfectly fine to have many screen names across platforms instead of being locked to one. When I created my first real email address, I followed suit with almost everyone else and chose a name closely resembling my own. That makes sense, and it felt like the right thing to do, but it was from that point forward that my use of custom screen names diminished. I had a screen name for video games and Twitter I guess, but for ease and simplicity I resorted to the adult choice of my personal name for any accounts asking.

We live in this age where we are so often on and connected. We all know that a simple search can tie us to nearly every online account because we use our real names as the identifier. Data breaches are complicated not only by their nature, but because those same emails, usernames, ad potentially passwords (if you aren't using a password manager...) can be traced to a plethora of other accounts elsewhere.

All of that is accepted now. What I'm actually interested in is a writeup on the history of screen names; something like The Rise and Fall of Screen Names if you will. I am not the person to write this story. While I've grown up in the middle of it all, I was not at the age to be fully aware of it. I didn't create a Facebook until the middle of high school, and it was probably after that when I got a Twitter.

I loved the creativity and comedy of Twitter handles (I'm looking at @fart, @nice_mustard, or @rad_milk), and it's my remembering of them that contributed to this post.

There are people out there who probably already have this stuff documented. A quick search of my own found no immediate results for this story (correct me if I'm wrong!), so I'm putting it out there to the world that I want it. I want to know the beginnings of screen names and how we transitioned to a time when the act of using one instead of your real name can be seen as a political statement; that last part I made up, but the rest of it stands. Where are screen names still acceptable, or even expected, and where have they fallen to the wayside?

I hope someone who knows way more about this than I do can write a lengthy article and send it my way. If this already exists, then I'm an idiot, and I hope someone corrects me.


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