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“Back in the day, no one ever thought that their Unix login was their ‘self.’ It was a tool you used to perform a function, like a screwdriver.
This is who I am in a very real universe.’”Ditching a user ID is easy, in other words.
Letting go of “who you are” is considerably more painful.***Are Schober and I overthinking this? But laziness doesn't really describe what I feel when I log into my accounts.
Now, nearly two decades later, this tiny remnant of your seventh-grade self is still your default user ID. You use it to read more than 10 New York Times articles a month.
Finally, after a couple of thwarted attempts, a chipper male voice announced that you had arrived. “You’ve got mail.” And with that, you were free to explore the web’s pleasantest walled garden, complete with chat rooms, buddy lists, instant messages, and lots of “new kayaking friends”—at least until someone else needed to use the phone line. (I’m looking at you, nsyncrulz971.) But if you’re an American between the ages of 25 and 35, I’m willing to bet that you still use your original America Online screen name to maneuver around the Internet every day—a slightly misspelled, numerically augmented alias such as lil_cheerio_23 or gettobootie37 that you came up with in 30 seconds one afternoon in 1996 after discovering, much to your chagrin, that every unnumbered, conventionally spelled name you tried was already taken.
When you didn't have to secure firstnamelastname.com, or else.
When you weren't expected to establish your own "personal brand." When being a pimply Britpop fanatic was enough.
That's right: I still access a few sites by typing the misspelled name of a song by the arrogant Britpop band I was obsessed with back in 1995, because of course someone else snagged the properly spelled version before I could get to it.
During the intervening years, through my teens, twenties, and now into my thirties, I could have very easily abandoned my old AOL alias and selected a new default username from the many online IDs I began to accumulate as I grew up—my university login, my work email. Sure, part of the problem is complacency; I know I’m not going to forget the name under which I spent hundreds of hours IM’ing with girls I had crushes on in high school, so why bother coming up with something else? Nostalgia for a time when your real life and your Internet life weren't quite the same thing yet.
I decided to get in touch with a couple of experts to help me sort it all out.
Bill Cheswick is (as a former colleague once wrote) “a network-security god; he wrote the book, literally, on firewalls, coined the term ‘proxy server,’ [and] figured out how to map the Internet.” Earlier this week, I emailed Cheswick a simple question: why do adults continue to hang onto these (usually somewhat childish) screen names? “It is not surprising at all,” Cheswick wrote in response.
I made it in 8th grade (1997) when I got my first cat. That was a lie.”“How crazy is it that many of us have carried those AOL identities with us like a social security number?Tags: Adult Dating, affair dating, sex dating