I don’t know if you noticed, but my last name is hard to spell.
For years (literally my whole life), I’ve dealt with it. And without regret, I’ve come to accept and nurture it, especially when that one Biggie song comes on the radio (Prae, prea, praetorius… Yeah, I know you can hear it now.) But that doesn’t make the DMV any easier. Or telemarketing calls. Or awards ceremonies where the announcer doesn’t know my name. Or third grade.
See, I never figured that this might carry over to the internet. When I first got online, pseudonyms were all the rage and the only time I had to use my real name was for buying things. I didn’t have interaction that required any sort of legitimate identity. But eventually things changed and even by the end of AIM days I had begun to use my full name online.
So when it came to Twitter, @DeanPraetorius was an obvious choice. “Phew, no one stole my name,” was the first thing to come to mind. Why I even thought that would be possible is beyond me at this point, but hey, it happens to the best of us. And I proceeded to move on with my social media career. Naturally I had already secured that username (with a slight modification that I still can’t explain clearly, and still gives me a bit of trouble) on Facebook, and LinkedIn made it pretty clear my true identity needed to be out there.
So years later I imagine the same look of dread telemarketers must have on their faces when they call me, on the faces of my followers when they try to mention me. Struggling over that first a-e combination and then losing all hope after the r. Maybe I’m exaggerating, maybe it’s an imagined problem to some degree, but at the very least it’s taking up far too many of a few people’s 140 characters.
So I went about trying to change it. No, not my name, my Twitter handle.
Now picking a different identity than that given to you by your parents is never easy (I still remember the countless days that passed as I considered leaving “DeantheGreek” behind in 6th grade), but keeping it short and sweet shouldn’t be that hard right? Heck, D-Roff did it in high school (inside joke, I apologize). There’s plenty of recognizable initials there (though some unpleasant implications if I went for the obvious ones like @DP or @DPP… yeah, third grade was tough), or at least something to work with.
But the obvious ones were gone, @dean long taken (and I got a nasty response just for asking) and @deanp with few followers but some activity (we connected over email, still no dice, but a very nice and considerate response nonetheless). The one that would have really caught people’s eyes (though it would have been equally as hard to do) was taken by none other than my little brother (@praetoriusBIG), and a quick search of a few other ones (@SPQR for historical reference and @Spartan for heritage) yielded no good results. @praetorius wouldn’t have solved any problems except length, but alas, that’s still taken by a distant cousin from Germany (who I probably should connect with one of these days).
So, when it looked like I couldn’t make a decision on my own, I looked to friends, naturally, on social media. Namely Facebook. This excellent conversation ensued (my favorite suggestions, though somewhat unusable are @deanpraelove and @DeanVictorious), but we couldn’t quite put a finger on the perfect one.
I have a feeling, I’m not alone here. I want people to know I’m me, especially in a public space like Twitter, and despite my desire to be creative, the easiest way to do that is to use my full name. But it’s not functional, and I may be out of choices. More importantly, I love my name, but it is what it is. I don’t want to have to come up with a new one just because it’s not easy to sound-out, but that choice may be beyond me.
So for the time being, I’m still me, but we’ll see how long that lasts.