Sunday, December 07, 2008

Jiggle the handle

I wrote a post a couple months ago dealing with an on-line footprint, or your history of internet usage. The internet can be a place where footprints are left in cement as opposed to a track in the sand. Erasing is impossible without powerful tools and effort. In the mid '90s when AOL really started to take hold and anyone who had internet was now under a screen name, or sharing one with a family. Many people were forced into choosing "handle" for the first time in their lives. Simple handles involving any combination of your name, birthday, hometown or favorite sport were common. My first ever handle was a simple jas6854 on AOL, with the numbers being completely random.

I halfheartedly attempted to figure out the origin of the term handle, but I lost interest. I do know the term originated within the hacker community in probably the late '80s, and more recently has become part of the common lexicon of message board and video game culture. I find great interest in the evolution of a handles purpose. In the past hackers used them to carve a unique identity keeping them hidden from authority, yet allowing them to take claim for their accomplishments. Today a handle can either be synonymous with a person's true persona or used as a veil just as it was originally in the '80s. The advent of video game handles and the very prevalent Xbox gamercard, Wii Mii, and etc. have allowed people to create secondary personae that are socially acceptable and desirable to connect your true identity with.

Yet even in this world where a handle may just be used as a true extension of yourself online, others have used the masking ability of it to become horrible other versions of themselves. The ability to spew racist, sexist, and un-pc commentary in video games and on message boards without any blow back to one's personal self is an opportunity so many have been unable to resist. The psychological reasons for this are beyond my desire to explore and have been written about before, but what should be noted as I continue, are the two common forms of handle usage; continuation of self, and a alternate self.

What is really interesting to me is how people choose their handles. I would like to as an example, use the Three B group's Xbox tags which are posted on this very blog. In looking over the few examples we have, I see a common theme of clique nicknames and inside jokes as a basis for a gamertag.

My own personal handle Uckofay stems from a unique evolution of nicknames and inside jokes, to which the absolute origin of it I am not even aware. Due most assuredly to my big mouth, outlandish comments and actions, a roommate dubbed me Fucko, to which my first blush reaction is perceiving it as an protagonist/jester nickname. I modified the name myself using pig latin for a more socially acceptable use on bar crawl t-shirts, and Uckofay was born. As time went on I shortened it to U-fay, but always kept Uckofay along with TheOnlyDoubleJ as the two handles most people know me as in an online interaction. Uckofay was ultimately the choice I made in my gamertag selection, probably because it had an edgier and more aggressive sound to it than my previous screen name.

My brother's is a great example of a situational or observational nickname. Being my younger brother, he was commonly called Little James. Well as he grew to be larger than I, little James did not fit very well. He couldn't be Big James as that would cause you to think he was the elder of the two. Well small and big are separated by Medium, and Medium James was born.

Damman this weekend changed his. Angry Damman could be considered an ironic tag. As a guy who is commonly quiet and thoughtful, the use of an aggressive adjective is not one you would commonly use with him.

PDramaRocks is one of my favorites. Pat is a guy known to happily complain and object to most things the community said or did, much like a popular Entourage character. The simple addition of Pat's first initial to Drama created one of the best fitting handles I have ever witnessed.

Nistur and NoTurn, I have no friggin clue where you guys got that. notNotHoward is a simple observation to a very complicated nickname, to which an entire additional post could be written.

In all of these situations, I know none of us to be alternate ego personalities. For the most part the Three B group act online as you would expect them to act in person. I feel this usage of a handle to be the most common, or at least I am optimistic that it is. My fear is that as younger generations grow up with internet personalities from an earlier age and discover the ability anonymity gives to be a complete ass online, they will gravitate towards alternate identities. If they choose to do so, let us just hope they at least create some amusing handles to block.


Damman said...

Bill's Nistur he used in WoW, but I think it has a literary origin. I don't know where NoTurn comes from, but I'm pretty sure it stems from Andy's and Nick's high school grouping (I remember seeing rHuNoTurn somewhere, Nick's was rHuDriver). And you missed Ryan's attempt to say he is NOT in fact NOT a Howard.

My old AOL handle was Cybermik04.
I'm still embarrassed about it.

Howard! said...

Michael speaks the truth. The name is funny and ironic because, as he stated, I am "NOT in fact NOT a Howard" all while I am actually not Howard!


Anonymous said...
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Jason said...

Well I did make mention of it, I think Angry Damman missed that line. But yea, you continue to perplex us all with your false-nameage

Slick said...

As I'm slowly catching up on past blogs (I didn't realize for a long time that posts were beginning to actually appear more frequent.), this one maybe might not be too old to respond to.

Andy's indeed came from our high school guys, and it would fall under inside jokes.