The age of social media when I was in high school revolved around Myspace and the coolest display you had. For me, it was “xiGigglesx”.
Fast forward to college and it was goodbye Myspace, hello Facebook which, much to my surprise, offered no option to create a unique display name but instead offered only two blank fields required to have an account: your First and Last name.
I was registered and the “ping” of friend requests soon began. My real friends started to add me, and then family members I did not know were actually tech savvy and as time went on, people known as mutual friends did as well (people you may or may not know because they are friends with your friend(s)).
That was fine and dandy until I reached a point where 3000 friend requests later, more than half my list of friends comprised of people I have never talked to or even met because the only connection we shared was the high school or college we attended. Better yet were the family members whose requests I accepted thinking they would not give much thought to things I posted (boy, was I WRONG).
After little deliberation, I did a mass clean of deleting not-really friends and nosy family members, reducing my friends list to people I actually interacted with. To top it all off, I decided to change my name to something completely outrageous.
And everyone lost their marbles. Instead of friend requests blowing up my page, it was now questions:
“OMG I didn’t know that was your real name!” “Were you hacked?” Oh I was afraid someone stole your photo and was cat fishing your identity.”
What was even funnier than people’s speculations was that, over time, friends I knew but have not seen in a while started addressing me by online alias. Gone were the days that “xiGigglesx” was simply a display name – now it became something people believed was my real identity.
So why did I use a fake name and why should you? Well,
1. To separate business from pleasure
When you choose to post or share something online, it is there for the world to see regardless if it was meant only for your friends. While I am not ashamed of anything I have posted online (otherwise I would not have posted it), using a fake name allowed me to keep my personal life, personal taking away any satisfaction recruiters and employers might get from finding a social media account which is only a very small snapshot of my life. I have a LinkedIn account as well as work published on other platforms for the curious to see because I am not sure how useful my holiday photos spent in the Philippines or rants on The Walking Dead would be of use to my boss or someone looking to hire me.
2. To keep creepers and social climbers at bay
Sometimes there are just some people you’d rather not have find you. Maybe it’s that one guy you went on a date with and never spoke to again. Or that one family member who loved to comment on every thing you post (my reason). Or maybe you need anonymity because where you currently work might draw the unwanted attention of people who are dying to work where you are too. People are more likely to add you if they are assured your online identity is “real.” Your real name coupled with a real photo of yourself can resonate in the memory of someone who might have heard your name once. Using a fake one, even with a real photo of yourself, might make someone second guess.
3. Because your real friends will know who you are
Clearly whether I use my real name or my alias, my real friends could take one look at my photo and know its me. After changing my name, friend requests were more genuine and initiated by people I actually knew.
While using a fake name might not stop unwanted people from requesting you as a friend, it has helped me gain more control over my own personal space and who can enter it.
Have you encountered harassment online or annoying friend requests on social media? Do you use an alias name online as well? Share your thoughts with me below!