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Naming and Avatars

2009 April 19
by Marwa

I was thinking about all the things we talked about relating to our avatars for the last two weeks or so. It had turned out that a lot of us tried to make our avatars look like ourselves as much as possible. I was wondering what people do/did when it came to naming their avatars – do they make them sound like their real names as much as possible, or the other way round? What makes them choose to do whatever it is that they do?

My own avatar on Second Life was called Mars. Sounds like a really random name that might have to do with some obsession with the planet maybe, but not really. Mars is kind of a shortened form of my already somewhat short name, Marwa. Some of my friends used to call me Mars back in school. While I did not want to give it my real name to my avatar, I also was hesitant about giving it a name completely different from my actual name. I am not quite sure why. I think that I felt that the name had to resemble me in some way too, not just my avatar. Hence, Mars.

Even in real life, if I am ever in a situation where someone asks me my name but I am not comfortable giving it to him/her, the fake name I almost always use is Maria. Even when I know for certain that I don’t want to give my real identity, I change only one single letter from my real name. I can never pick a name that does not start with the same letter as my actual name, and mostly go with a name that has the same first three letters at least. I don’t really completely know why I do that. Am I the only one who likes to have a name similar to her real name? Are there other people who feel that their names have to resemble themselves too?

5 Responses
  1. April 19, 2009

    I don’t choose names quite as similar as Mars is to Marwa, but I’ve noticed that I always pick/make up names with lots of a’s that give off a distinctly feminine feel (which mostly just means adding an a to the end). I don’t know if the a’s are distinctly tying the avatar to my name/myself though. I think it’s more that I like how my name sounds and want something slightly different. So Ciara for Second Life.

    But now that I think of it, one of my most common choices for online names is mlaya and that is definitely off of my name. My friends from home call me that sometimes, so having something similar sounding to my name makes it easier to respond to and identify with as well. On the other hand, I’m really glad that people call me by my real name in class since AH said out loud really grates on my nerves. It represents me but I don’t like the sound. If I hadn’t thought that it would be confusing to change it midway through the course I would have changed it to mlaya, something I feel much more comfortable with. AH isn’t me. It’s just something to log in with that was easy to think of and isn’t my real name.

    I guess I’m evidence for a little bit of both then.

  2. Hillary permalink
    April 19, 2009

    I know that personally I don’t use my real first name for an avatar, or names that sound like mine, but i use names that have meaning to me. For example i often use Catherine or some variation because it is my middle name. Or for second life i use Alexsandra (yes i know it is spelled wrong) because my mom almost named me Alexandra. I now also use a nick name i love for Alexandra for online games, Lexi. I know that i have been very conscientious in choosing names online. When I was in middle school and starting to venture into the online world I usually used the name Catherine Paul, (my middle name and my other last name that i don’t use).

    It’s interesting though because I don’t think i have ever felt particularly comfortable using my name or anything close to it for an avatar, but i also don’t pick the names arbitrarily, they are still connected to me.

  3. Mista Jay permalink
    April 19, 2009

    On Second Life my character’s name is Serenity. Try as I might, I just can’t escape that darned name! Haha, what I mean is, I’ve used “Serenity” for many online type games or forums or what not in place of my real name since I was about 12-ish. The name has nothing to do with my real name (except for the beginning with “S” part!) but it just so happened that I was watching a cartoon and one of the character’s was named Serenity…I kinda liked it, and then before I knew it, it just stuck.

    Now I just can’t NOT use it. Even when I was registering for Second Life, I thought of different names that I could use, and even typed in some of them, but it just didn’t feel right. I’m a little horrified that I’ve grown so attached to my online name–I never really thought much about this attatchment until I started taking this class!–but needless to say, its there. And its not to say I’m attatched to the avatar itself, or any other avatar I use as one a forum (I loathe my Second Life avatar) but its just the NAME I care about! In fact, even thought it’s not even close to my real name (which I wold never feel comfortable with putting online), its definitely a part of me.

    For this blog I had to outright FORCE myself to choose a different name than “Serenity”–I think part of the reason was to see if I really could….the other part is because I really like The Joker, lol. Yet, I think I was able to do it because at least in class, I don’t have to worry about this name, I don’t have to hear it. Thus the name only follows me around on this blog. If we were called by our blog names during class, I may have very well chosen “Serenity,” because I (similar to you, AH) would rather not be called “Mista Jay.”

    But on Second Life or any other online forum or what not, I have no second name to truly “fall back on,” so I just cling to Serenity.

  4. Melinda C. permalink
    April 19, 2009

    On Second Life, I made my first name Zykuri. Zykuri is a random online name that I made up years ago, for a neopet actually (one had to get pretty creative to make up new pet names that didn’t have numbers or underscores in them!). I liked it, so I ended up adopting it as one of my email addresses, and as an AIM screenname (though it is now defunct for no apparent reason), and on various other things as well. Another name that I use online is Rhapsodica… which I, again, made up during my neopets days but ended up liking and using in other contexts (it is probably my favorite online alias, as I feel like it somehow fits me well). I used to put little thought into which names I used for what, but now, it seems that Zykuri tends to go to my less serious online ventures, Rhapsodica goes with my more mature ones where I still don’t want to use my first name (ie. livejournal, Serendip last year, etc.), and my first name or BMC email name for things that are, or potentially could be, related to school or something that is “serious” or relevant offline as well as online.

  5. Roisin Foley permalink
    April 19, 2009

    I think this idea of naming on the internet is really interesting. When I was younger my livejournal username was a combination of nicknames that my best friend and I had given each other and the age that we were at the time, 14. They were nicknames that no one else called us and that had no real relation to our given names. To me, as a young teen online, this felt safer than putting my actual name out there, despite the fact that I put a lot more personal stuff on my livejournal than my name at the time. Somehow, sharing my real name with people online felt like revealing some essential part of myself, especially because I’ve had such a difficult relationship with the name (apparently unpronounceable) my parents gave me over the years.

    Later, when I was about 17, I changed that same livejournal username to one that contains my actual name. I now use that username pretty much everywhere that I am on the internet (flickr, youtube, twitter, etc.) except here and facebook, where I use my full name.

    In most of the games I played for this class, I found myself using my middle name, because no one refers to me that way in real life but I feel as if it is still closely connected to the “real” offline me. For me, then, like the OP, I feel the need for my name online to reflect who I am offline. As I mentioned before, part of it has to do with how hard it has been throughout my life to convince people in meatspace to commit to pronouncing, spelling, and using my name correctly. My immediate family even calls me by a nickname which is the anglicization of my name; Rosie. For me, insisting that people in my non-family, academic, and work lives refer to me by a name which is an important ethnic and familial signifier for me and a piece of my identity which marks me wherever I go is incredibly important. The fact that I continue to use it online is perhaps an extension of my belief that the internet is not a place to obscure fully our offline identities.

    I have been involved in various discussion on livejournal, jezebel, and other places where people of color express their annoyance at how most people in these online forums are assumed to be white, as if that is somehow the default for anyone who is online. Likewise with women on the various soccer blogs I read. This kind of race, class, and gender privilege doesn’t just disappear when you are on the internet, and I think my choice to stick with my name and remain as close to myself as possible reflects that belief of mine.

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