The holidays are upon us, ushering in the time of year we bug our friends and family for presents — but why not bug tech companies as well?
If you’ve ever used Reddit, you should join me and demand custom usernames for Christmas. But why, you ask? The answer is simple: shame, creativity, and the multiplicity of man.
I’m late to the game when it comes to Reddit, but even as an outsider I know it’s meant to be the website. It’s got all the information you could dream of — like how much money Owen Wilson has made per ‘wow’ — and after 14 years of existence, it still has the beautiful old-school internet vibe to it. It preserves the feel of the internet when online communities were for people into the same niche stuff — and not toxic by default, which is more than the rest of the web can say.
But I’ve finally seen the light and become a civilized netizen! What eventually got me on Reddit was a new hobby I started recently, and its subreddit has all the info and connection to the community I need. There’s just one problem — I’m ashamed of my hobby.
Uhm… but Reddit is anonymous
It’s true that Reddit is anonymous, but being the noob that I am, I kinda chose a username that’s pretty easily connected to me when I first joined (and no, it’s not ‘superhotstud3000’ but thanks for asking).
I did it because I had envisioned my Reddit-usage being driven by engaging in deep discussions across a plethora of subreddits — such as r/books and r/tech — dazzling people with my wit and adding anecdotes to my articles my fans would share. And of course I’d wanna be able to claim that fame by an easily identifiable username.
But that didn’t really happen.
So when I found my warm shameful corner of Reddit, I was stuck with a username that was a tad too personal. I succumbed to the situation and created a new account, using my simple formula for semi-original looking/funny monikers that haven’t been used: two adjectives + vegetable/fruit. It really works, observe:
So with my identity safely hidden, is my problem solved? Not even close.
While these usernames might be fun, they’re not clever enough because they have to be multi-purposed. Instead of being able to use subreddit-specific humor — like posting under the name ThomasTheDankEngine on r/modeltrains (which I wish was lamer than my hobby) — we’re all doomed to have generic usernames that cannot showcase our deep bonds with our myriad of subreddits or how amazingly creative we are. And that’s a shame.
Also, I don’t want to risk being tracked between subreddits, just so somebody can slam me in an argument in a completely different thread by throwing my embarrassing hobby in my face.
Role theory, social psychology, and the multiplicity of man
The issue is also we’re all multi-layered, complicated individuals with a wide variety of interests. We adapt and behave differently depending on the social groups we’re in, and in online communications we’re missing the tools we need to mimic our everyday social-role change.
As role theory suggests, a person has a role in each of their groups — set of rights, duties, expectations, norms, and behaviors that they have to fulfill. With an individual’s behavior being context specific — as science says it is — it’s only natural to cater to it in online communities with customizable usernames.
Am I pulling this out of my ass? Kinda, but I feel like we should let the point stand and commend my pseudo-scientific efforts.
Wearing a monocle normally is a tad off, while perfectly acceptable in a board meeting (I imagine), and the same goes for usernames. You want to ‘dress’ appropriately for each subreddit. And while flairs are a step in the right direction, they simply don’t cut it because they’re too limited and have different rules based on the subreddit.
That’s why you need to join me and ask Reddit (and/or Santa Claus) for custom usernames for each subreddit — we’ve been good, we deserve it.