Real(ly Long) Names, Short Nicknames, and the Consequences of Your Online Identities

I have a long name.

  1. Three first names: Adelaida Sophia Marie
  2. Three-syllable middle name: Figueras
  3. Three-syllable surname: Lucero

It is exactly the reason I have a very short nickname, Ia. Though some people have difficulty pronouncing or spelling it.

In elementary school, I grew up writing “A. Sophia Marie” as shorthand for my first names so it would be quicker. Plus I knew at least two classmates who also had three first names: Cathy Mae Margarette and Jacqueline Patricia Michelle.

When I stepped onto high school, the teachers did not understand what the “A.” was for, and thus I used only “Sophia”, since they never really cared and I would rather be called that than let them assume to use the first name as my default name. (I also found another classmate with three first names: Aimee Yvonne Criselle.) It was the same in college, since it was our student numbers that identified us.

The Early Years of the Internet

Things became different when the Internet kicked in. You wanted an email address that could identify you as you, but unfortunately you lived in the Philippines and a million other Americans had beaten you to it. And thus began the unsavory fad of attaching numbers to cutesy, meaningless code names like bluewhiskers28, or unpronounceable aliases altogether, like aoikoorikaze (aoi = blue, koori = ice, kaze = wind, all Japanese words that may or may not be grammatically correct when put side-by-side, but used anyway due to once-blind anime fandom and teenhood).

The BeautyWrath of IMAP

You tried using your two-letter nickname but you were told it was too short. It was by rare chance you actually find a free email service that allowed a two-letter username with a kickass domain name, [email protected]ath.ro. Even better was how it had IMAP and not just POP mail, which meant you had the luxury of using non-crappy interface desktop email clients while synchronizing everything you did offline with the mail server.

The Beauty of GMail

Then GMail arrived. You definitely wanted to be on this bandwagon: it was viral, exclusive, and had a gigabyte of space, which was unheard of that time—imagine, this was just a few years ago. Unfortunately it was back to the “at least six characters” username limit. Almost everyone you knew chose a permutation of their real name, perhaps tired of being too fancy, or tempted for once to be non-anonymous on the Web.

You chose a name no one else used to call you—except your mom, among other endearing terms she used to call you. You wanted to change all your online idenities to sofimi, but the most important component, your Yahoo! ID, already registered it a long time ago. Foiled again.

University Webmail

In between the explosions of innovating webapps, school email, much like the school itself, remained technologically sucky. Because you had your mom’s name, and she happened to teach at the same school you went to, your school email address was barely different from hers, except that yours had a number 2 attached afterwards. Juan Dela Cruz and John Dela Cruz would have the same dilemma and end up with [email protected] and [email protected], but unlike them, the secondary email address the school provided tried to spell out your whole name, adelaida_sophia_m.lucero at up.edu.ph, but utterly failed. School email addresses were supposed to be flaunt-worthy, especially since you came from The Premier State University.

Plus some subjects required your school email, even if you exchanged messages via Yahoo!Groups or Google Groups.

Social Networking

Then came the age of social networks. You wouldn’t really care to put your real name on Friendster, mostly because “Ia” is probably how your friendsters knew you anyway. But LinkedIn and Facebook came to your consciousness just about the time you became conscious with career decisions, part-time jobs, and extra-curricular marketing, and you wanted to clean up your act (and yet your Facebook profile is almost as horrendous-looking as the ones you detest on MySpace). More and more the Web felt like it was telling you to be less anonymous and be more real, since the pundits and the moneymakers were all doing it.

Or maybe because “Ia” was essentially “la” in most of the fonts and you’d rather spell your nickname in lowercase to best identify yourself, otherwise you became annoyed.

You kept sofimi on superfluous sites like Twitter, Flickr, del.icio.us, and LiveJournal; you tried to enter your real(ly long) name on Facebook and LinkedIn.

But they didn’t let you.

Keeping It Real(ly Long)

On Facebook you got an error message saying “the name you entered is too long”, while on LinkedIn the input field just wasn’t long enough (who knew if their database field for one’s first name was longer than the maxsize attribute?). You emailed Facebook tech support asking to change your name to your real(ly long) one, but ended up with “Adelaida Lucero” on your profile—which isn’t you. (It’s your mom.)

You’ll have to live with “Ia” looking like “la” for now.


I’ve noticed that people with three names tend to be really smart! Hahaha! (No, really, it’s true: look at Cathy and Michelle and Aimee.)

I can now use two-letter usernames in Google Apps. One-letter usernames, even. But I still miss that @wrath.ro address.

It is surprising what you can write about when you try to merge the geeky and the personal.

Hi! Thanks for stopping by ★

Design + code + words for a better web, made in the Philippines by Sophia Lucero.