Internet communication (as previously covered by a few of us) is something that is both very old and very new to me, ranging from miscellaneous tweets to the massive essays we get on some editorial blogs. However, whether you’re in the ‘sphere or you’re talking about mainstream shounen on a mediocre anime forum (or even not talking about anime at all), there’s one thing that follows you wherever you go, like a signature denoting your identity. That thing, which we so often take for granted, is called an internet handle, and it results in followers of the blogosphere tossing around names like DarkMirage and Impz in real life without thinking twice.
One thing I’ve always liked about the whole concept of internet handles is that you can change them at will. Sure, it’s usually impossible to delete your old account, and you occasionally might have to use a fake email, but it can still be done. Better yet, you can make an alt account or two in certain forums and use them for whatever mischeivous deeds you might want to do, without having to worry about denting your reputation. It may not be the most moral thing in the world, but I’m sure it’s been done before, and there really isn’t anything out there stopping us from doing it.
This also brings to mind the topic of imageboards, where users are more or less anonymous (and in the case of 4chan, where people who try to identify themselves from the rest of the anons are usually looked down upon). The lack of usernames decreases the stress people presumably feel to be decent human beings, and probably results in a lot more trolling. Of course, one can say that about any form of internet communication: you’re not going to be arrested for saying that KyoAni sucks and that Kenshin anime > manga, so if that’s what you think, then why not say it?
However, the issue of choosing a single internet handle and using it everywhere comes into play when people start taking the internet seriously. If all you want to do is mess around without consequence, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see you use countless different accounts on every forum you go to, but if you actually want to build up a reputation – one such case being in the blogosphere – you’re probably going to want to keep your name.
And that’s where things get interesting: the act of choosing an internet handle.
What kind of thought process do we go through when deciding on what to call ourselves online? What do we calculate, predict, contemplate? Or do we even contemplate at all? This is more of a question than an answer, because I can only speak from my own experience. In my case, Eternal is effectively just a shorter, easier to say, and overall evolved form of a previous handle I used to use back in elementary school because I thought it sounded cool. That’s it. Really. I’d like to say that there’s some sort of significance behind the name (especially since I spell it in all caps most everywhere), but it’s just something that evolved over time. When it came time to start blogging, I couldn’t think of any different names, and I figured that naming myself after a word was at least unique (if not a little stupid), so I decided to stop thinking and go for it. I believe DarkMirage also got his name from an MMO of some sort, but I can’t for the life of me remember where he said that.
On the same topic of internet handles, and stepping back for a moment at my choice of spelling for my name, how much effort do you generally put into maintaining a user’s original spelling, capitalization, etc. of their handle? And this can go beyond handles, too; what about the names of certain anime and games? For example, TYPE-MOON, AIR, sola, the crazy capitalization of Tsubasa Chronicles…and those are just off the top of my head. And when it comes to anibloggers, we already have a decent variety, like the all-lowercase names such as lelangir and ghostlightning, or the acronyms like CCY and OGT. Much like with anime names, the list can be endless if you want it to be.
Personally, it doesn’t bother me at all if people are too lazy to hold shift and type ETERNAL or KOTOKO, and yet, I find myself doing it anyway. Rarely do I ever write AIR without the caps, and I only started writing Clannad in lower case because I never actually use caps lock and it’s annoying to hold shift while typing all of those letters. Proper spelling isn’t particuarly important to me, and I certainly wouldn’t be offended if someone decided to omit those caps that I seem to be so fond of, but I still like playing around with grammar anyhow. Maybe it’s just because I have a personal grudge against plain names that obey the laws of grammar. Whether it’s caps, lower case, or even something as simple as the tilde-spamming that goes on in visual novel names, I always feel the need to toss in those things that really don’t make a difference, and I always seem to replecate them when I see them used in other names. I have no idea why, but ef – a fairy tale of the two and ef ~a fairy tale of the two~ feel like two completely different games to me, and even though I know it doesn’t matter, I wouldn’t be caught dead writing the latter. Even though it looks a little better.
Siscon is always relevant, right?
To sum this all up, I guess I should just clarify that I’m rambling – you did read the title, right? Ultimately, I don’t believe that there are any conclusive findings for one to report on something as trivial as the mystery of internet handles, especially since I won’t have any info unless you readers out there decide to comment and tell your own stories. From this post, we can conclude my own rather disjointed thoughts on the topic of internet aliases, but the discussion can’t be complete without hearing a little from all of you. I also posted the idea on Danny Choo where I hope to get a much wider response, but for those of you that are reading this right now, do me a favor and respond: how did you arrive at your own internet handle? What does it mean to you, if anything at all? The mystery of internet handles isn’t one that can be easily solved, but a bit of knowledge is better than none, ne?
…In retrospect, another option would be to just use your real name…
…but where’s the fun in that?