Friday, June 19, 2009

What's In A Name?

There is a lot of commotion in the world of cyberspace lately about claiming your name. The New York Times had an article Thursday on keeping a true identity online. Facebook was encouraging users to claim customized Facebook web addresses. David Meerman Scott reiterated the urgency in his blog. There are countless articles out there on the importance of using your real name on Twitter. And then of course, there is your own personal web site.

It got me to thinking about what really is in a name.

Growing up with an unusual Greek name was bothersome. It was too long. It was too hard to pronounce. It was too difficult to spell. There was just enough room on those forms we used to have to fill out in school with number 2 pencils for all the letters to fit. Which made me happy I was not given a middle name.

I would dream of shortening my name, except I thought my father would disown me. I prayed that I would fall in love and marry someone who had one of those easy to spell, more common names that did not require long explanations as to how to spell and how to pronounce, so I could get rid of mine.

But then life happens and suddenly I found myself too far into it to ever want to change it. My name became more than my name. It was an extension of me. It was who I was. I started to cozy up to its uniqueness. There were no other Joanne Tombrakos’ out there. If you Google it right now, you’ll find I am the only one. In fact with a rare exception I know every Tombrakos who shows up in the search.

Today, as we like to say in the world of social media, my name has become part of my brand.

I remember when the Internet was still frontier territory. People would create user names like alter egos, as if this was a place they could go incognito. In fact, it was almost encouraged. The web was a scary new place, so you didn’t necessarily want your real name out there. You just didn’t know what someone could do with it.

Well, you still don’t. But things have changed a bit and having a web identity has become an important part of our culture. So you want to know if someone is Googling you they are finding the right you. And, as Seth Godin suggests, you should live your life on line as if you are on Candid Camera so what they find is what you want them to.

Suddenly having an unusual name has become even more of an asset than I thought. I don’t need to add a middle name as David Meerman Scott did to distinguish himself from the rest of the David Scotts. Mine already is one of a kind.

Even if I do wind up marrying a man who has one of those easy last names, maybe I might be convinced to add it on with a hyphen, but my name is still my name. It will never be erased from me. Besides, I already have registered.


Seth Godin said...

Great post!

David Meerman Scott said...

If your name is "Seth Godin" you're okay. If your name is "David Scott" it is too common which is why I added my middle name.

I agree with Seth - great post