This (wholly narcissistic) issue has been on my mind off and on for the past year or so. Quite some time ago, I ceased to use a screen name on this blog. Not only that, but I tweet using my real name as well, and when I comment on various forums I do so as “Joe Streckert” if I can use a space, and “JStreckert” if I can’t.
Previously I’d gone by the nom de net “SonicLlama,” a handle that I acquired in high school. It stuck the way nicknames usually do, lodging itself in my mind. I attempted to use a few others: “Cerberus,” as I’ve always liked the big three-headed fellow, but ultimately that was too negative and possibly too pretentious to use on a regular basis. Sometimes, in FPSs, I went by “Mr. Mutilate,” but the drawbacks of that one should be abundantly obvious. “Metis,” was another attempt, a Greek term meaning “skill” or “wisdom.” The main appeal was that it was invoked at length in Neal Stephenson’s Cryptonomicon.
The trouble with “Metis” was that later I found out that it’s both the name of a Native American group up in Canada, and the term for an inbred werewolf in the Werewolf: the Apocalypse RPG. Not wanting to have my meaning mistaken, I quickly ditched that and went back to using “SonicLlama,” even though I’d long since grown tired of the moniker. The breaking point came, I think, when a then-girlfriend referred to me as “SonicLlama” on her blog. Seeing my high school screen name used in the context of something kind of sweet and romantical seemed highly weird, and I just ditched the thing altogether.
Being utterly unable to think up something meaningful or witty, I simply started blogging as “Joe” and then appended my last name to it. At times I wondered if this is something that’s sort of foolish, given that anyone could Google me and find, for example, pictures of me with stupid hair. I’ve also wondered if my habit of appending my real name to things on the internet at all narcissistic. I do like attention, after all.
But… No. No, I don’t think so. In fact, I wish that more people did what I did. Using my real name means that I don’t say anything online that I wouldn’t say in person. Being a troll lacks all appeal, and big part of that is that I don’t take on too much of a persona while online. There still is a bit of one, but appending “Joe Streckert” to my blog and twitter feed prevents me from ever succumbing to the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory, a process wherein normal people become insufferable while behind a scrim.
Screen names are fine, and it is fun to give yourself a nickname (I might think up something specifically for gaming) but for now whenever I see someone else posting under their real, actual name, it makes me smile a bit. Maybe, like me, they couldn’t summon up a handle that fit them well. Or maybe they just don’t want to be a fuckwad. Either way, I approve.