Whenever I need to create an account on some platform I've not used before, I'm almost always faced with a dilemma regarding my public username. I can simply use one that I already use elsewhere or I can come up with a new, unique one.
Both, in my view, have advantages and disadvantages:
- It's easy and quick to use an existing username, but it immediately links my activity in the platforms. This often happens in a permanent way—in many cases it's not possible to change the username afterwards.
Sometimes though, it may be tricky to determine which of the existing usernames to use (which I have due to facing this dilemma and sometimes creating new usernames)—do I associate this new account with these accounts and interests, or with these other ones, etc.
- Creating a new username, on the other hand, allows me to avoid any immediate linking. Often I could later link the accounts by just mentioning them in a bio/about field of my profiles, if I'd like to.
However, I find making a new identifier for myself quite challenging: it may take hours to settle on something I am comfortable with. I almost always start thinking of using a string of random characters, but it seems not nice to people who'd want to read it, especially seeing many simple, "normal" usernames around. So I begin brainstorming simple word(s) that would look cool, but this inevitably leads into thinking about the meaning of these words and then trying to still make them somehow relate to my identity... which is opposite of the goal I started with.
The issue stems from the fact that I would like both "maintaining a single identity" of the first approach and "staying anonymous" / "keeping the identity private" of the second approach. Using the bio/about field as I mentioned above seems like the solution, but I feel like it hurts discoverability—something that I would like to have as part of "maintaining a single identity".
The reason I want to have both is that, while I appreciate being anonymous, thus being able to say more things in an open way, I would like to remain discoverable by other people who share similar interests as me, and not necessarily just one interest. I would like them to be able to look at my username on one platform, and be able to associate it with my activity on another, without them having to do much digging around my profiles to see the connection. I sometimes do this myself and am quite curious in what range of interests people can have and how they match with mine. But, at the same time, I don't want Big Data or just people with bad intentions to see any of the connections; some identities are also unfortunately linked to my real-world identity.
To that end, I have thought of making a website that would require a person to pass some form of a quiz, show what kind of interests they have (or they think I might have), before they are presented with links to my accounts on other services; but despite this being an interesting idea, it could just as well simply hurt discoverability—people might not realize something interests me or them and thus never learn about this interest or may wish keep some of their interests private (i.e. don't want to explicitly enter their interests).
It's relatively easier to decide which interests to reveal to someone when you are already in contact with them privately, but to become in contact with them, you need to discover each other first.
This leads me to the questions: How could I balance remaining anonymous and keeping my interests private in general with remaining open to be discovered by people who have several matching interests / identify themselves similarly? Do many people even do the latter, or do they mostly begin communicating based on one interest (in which case, wouldn't it be inappropriate or off-topic to talk about other potential matching interests)?
I don't necessarily face the dilemma when I really don't want the account to be associated with any other accounts I have and/or when I don't expect to be participating often anywhere where someone would want to read my username. The dilemma also comes up less when there isn't a (publicly-)searchable directory of accounts.
Logging in with an account of another platform, where I already have an account, is also quite tempting because of its convenience.
While writing this, I also thought of another case: it may be harder to interpret a bunch of random characters for screen reader users.
As my usernames usually end up being somewhat identifying (i.e. refer to my interests), there are less opportunities to e.g. use some wordplay, but when I'm less limited by interests, I can choose something cool.
This is actually discoverability in a different way—discoverability of new interests.