Pros and Cons of having a unique name?
March 22, 2021 2:15 PM   Subscribe

I want to change my name in the near future. I'm not sure of the consequences of choosing a name that is (effectively) globally unique.

The problem is that with my new first name, combined with my existing last name, I would have a name that seems to be unique, in that I can't find much indication of anyone else having that particular combination of first and last name.

Are there any downsides to having a (practically) unique name?
posted by shanek to Society & Culture (41 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
If you want to sign up for an account with your real name, those accounts will be effectively searchable on the internet. So - your Amazon wishlist, goodreads account, etc. I'd recommend that you have a plan for a non-unique moniker as well (such as, using your middle name, etc) in case you want to be personally identifiable on the internet yet not searchable.
posted by many more sunsets at 2:18 PM on March 22, 2021 [18 favorites]

My mother's first name was unique to her (and her mother). Didn't seem to cause her any difficulties, except that people sometimes thought it was odd in an interesting kind of way. The only downsides would seem to be those identified by many more sunsets.
posted by slkinsey at 2:21 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have this - my names are a combination of ethnicities that basically ensure I'm the only one. The only potential problem is that if you put my full name into google, 100% of the results are actually related to me. Which is not great for privacy. It's fine, since nothing shows up that I'm not happy about, but if I were ever to make the news for something unflattering, I'd have no real chance that it would be lost in the shuffle or not associated with me.
posted by Ragged Richard at 2:29 PM on March 22, 2021 [32 favorites]

Mrs. Hobo has a globally unique name, and as a result she tends to mangle it to a more common form for anything that does not require someone actually know her. It's definitely a privacy problem, as there are no ways she could ever be forgotten by the Internet.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 2:32 PM on March 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

Just reinforcing the above, I have a nearly-globally unique name, and I make a point of not using my name as a username anywhere. I worry that companies are more protective of data that includes real name and less protective of data that includes a username (even if the two are the same). To mitigate the chance that data is accidentally/intentionally released with usernames in it, I keep a set of 4-5 unrelated usernames I use for non-social websites.
posted by saeculorum at 2:49 PM on March 22, 2021

I have a very unique name and it affects my online engagement. Whenever I visit a site that wants a review from me (and I want to give one) I have to thoroughly check whether first names will be displayed. Any community or donation site gives me pause because I want to understand how my name will be show up. It's not always about maintaining anonymity, but just wanting to be informed about how my info will be displayed and potentially searchable.
posted by homesickness at 2:50 PM on March 22, 2021 [18 favorites]

The flip side is that you're not going to be affected if someone with your name does something bad or stupid. I remember once googling a potential date and finding some pretty disturbing information and not being able to tell if it was actually about them or one of the hundreds of other people with the same name.

Are you going to have a lot of people mispronouncing your name, and will that bother you?
posted by trig at 2:50 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

30 years ago I changed my name in order to have a more unique name. The problem I had was that about 10 years ago my new name suddenly became incredibly popular. Now I'm annoyed at having the same name as so many other people. Oh well...
posted by WalkerWestridge at 2:52 PM on March 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

I did this exact thing - and came from a name that is relatively common. The biggest thing has been surprise over what is easily findable by google search -like GoFundMe contributions.

Honestly, though, after a lifetime of having one of the most common first names for my generation, I love how much simpler it is to have a unique name in so many ways.
posted by lunasol at 2:53 PM on March 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

As far as I can tell, there is exactly one other person with my first+last name combo. As said above, it makes discovery online (or via any public databases etc. that end up online) very easy for anyone who cares to look.

One thing I wouldn't have expected: I own my version of ""- and it seems that I get email meant for every other person with that initial+last name combo (though in my case that seems to be only a few tens of people). So watch out for common contractions causing collisions that wouldn't be a problem with the full name.

If there's even a hint of similarity between your unusual name and something more common, some people will just straight-up default to the easier (and incorrect) option. For both pronunciation and spelling.
posted by Jobst at 2:59 PM on March 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

You will become profoundly easy to doxx. I have a globally unique name and any minimally motivated person could easily and quickly find all kinds of information about me with just a wisp of a starting point.
posted by cyclopticgaze at 3:02 PM on March 22, 2021 [23 favorites]

I wouldn't do it. You may think you have nothing to hide but life happens and you just don't know when it's going to be a problem to find yourself a prime candidate for doxxing, being found when you don't want to be, etc.
posted by fingersandtoes at 3:17 PM on March 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

I am the only person with my name (actually, I changed my name recently, and both the before and the after versions are globally unique - my last name is very rare).

Just wanted to agree with the points about how google will never forget you. For me that hasn't been a bad thing, because I'm in a profession (academia) where I want an international reputation, and being easy to google and find has been a blessing -- and while I have a few dumb things on there, they are at this point hidden behind 10 pages of google results so nobody finds them anyway. YMMV if you're not in a career where racking up 10 pages of google results happens. It's also been nice to get great handles on things where I want to be traceable (e.g., my email address is just Where I don't want to be traceable, I just use something totally different (I have an alt gmail account and several alt handles for different contexts, and that suffices).

Basically: I haven't minded having a globally unique name at all. So I think it depends a lot what kind of person you are and what your goals are.
posted by forza at 3:32 PM on March 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

If I google my full name, I only get me. I hate it and find it really exposing.

Because I have a reasonably common second name (though not for the part of the world I live in) I don't even get the benefit of initial+surname handles either.

I'd caution you to think twice about it and maybe choose something slightly less unique, so that if someone googles, for example, you + profession they would get you, but you could disappear slightly on a general search.
posted by finisterre at 3:44 PM on March 22, 2021 [8 favorites]

Near as I can tell there are maybe 2-5 other people in the U.S. with my same first+last name, and then probably a further small handful across the globe. If I add in my middle name it is definitely unique. Even middle initial there couldn't be more than a couple of us globally.

Personally, I like it way better than being one of 500,000 "John Smiths" or the like.

I haven't had any of the issues people here are suggesting, but I do agree that they are potential problems. Just for example when I do a google search for "Firstname Lastname" all of the first several pages of results that refer to a person of that name are referring to me (a few are mistakes or refer to a "Firstname Middlename" similar to mine or similar). I haven't done a google search on myself for a while and was somewhat surprised to find my youtube favorites page, ebird profile, and various other random account profiles listed. Anyone finding these would be pretty certain they are mine, and some other same-named person's.

It is nice to have an gmail username (and similar things like twitter, facebook, etc etc) that is simply firstnamelastname. I also have firstnameMIlastname. No one ever tries to grab those on a service before I do, and I never get random messages that are clearly meant for some other person of the same name. In fact, I'm always slightly surprised if someone has grabbed FIlastname before I get it on a service. Regardless, I'm never FirstLast38294 or some other random meaningless thing.

- I would say the sweet spot is to have a name that is not 100% globally unique, but just fairly rare or uncommon. Say there were 20 people with your name in the U.S. - 200 or 2000 or 20000 is bad, but 1 is potentially bad for the opposite reason. In the neighborhood of 10 or 20 would be the sweet spot.

- I would say it is better to build up a unique name using common components. If your first (or last) name is literally the only such name in the world, that is going to be unpleasant for various reasons outlined by others above.

For example, my first name is a bit uncommon but definitely something people have heard before. My last name is even more uncommon, but similar to a couple other names that are quite common. And my middle name is quite uncommon. So first+last becomes pretty rare and first+middle+last becomes unique or close to it. But none of the individual first, middle, or last names makes anyone raise much of an eyebrow. People can pronounce and spell them without too much assistance.

- Having a too-common name is a super-pain if you end up in academia, writing, journalism, media, the arts, or really anything where name recognition is important. It is no fun at all being the 8th or 12th Amanda Brown in your particular field. Hopefully you are the only Amanda R. Brown or whatever, but it is still annoying (and confusing for others) to try to keep Amanda R. Brown, Amanda M. Brown, Amanda P. Brown, etc etc etc all straight. In this type of situation, unique is definitely far, far preferable to common. IMHO.
posted by flug at 4:04 PM on March 22, 2021 [4 favorites]

The combo of my first and last name are really unique. One person had it a hundred years ago. But then 20 years ago, Google showed another person with that name near where I was born. I emailed him and asked if we were related. He emailed back no, but at least I know of a likely case of identity theft (I live in a different country now).

Having a unique name means people not pronouncing it correctly, both first and last name. Wow, young lady, you can't pronounce the first name of a late president?

Growing up, I'd rather have had the name of John Smith, or some other generic name.
posted by baegucb at 4:19 PM on March 22, 2021

I sort of have one of these too. (If you're American, I'm unique. If you're from Norway, I'm invisible.) I'm just careful to use pseudonyms (more people know me as mrgoat than by my real name) a lot, and I keep anything weird off of searchable social media. I have been doxxed a couple times, but not in any serious way. I've had more trouble with people trying to use my screen name and email address than my real name, but it is a concern. I also keep several email addresses for different purposes. Sometimes people sign up for a service under my screen name associated email, and I just hijack their account and delete it. Never had that problem with my real name.

Still, the only thing I'd be worried about if I were you would be doxxing, if you're particularly politically active or tend to publicly post views that the kind of idiots that dox people would come after you for.
posted by mrgoat at 4:19 PM on March 22, 2021

I have a pretty unique name (crossed cultures, plus an unusual first name) and I don't find it bothers me. Google results for my name are actually me, and I'm always conscious of whether I'm participating anonymously, pseudonymously, or nymously when online, but I do all three.

Thinking about it in response to your question, I'd be more worried if I had a more widely-shared name and someone endowed with it did something terrible or stupid.
posted by Wrinkled Stumpskin at 4:19 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I second flug on the "unique name with common components" idea.

My first name is incredibly common and generic (duh), middle name's in the middle of that, and my last name is on the "you don't hear too many people with it, but it's not utterly rare" side of the scale. What this boils down to is that last I checked, there were something like 30+ people online throughout the world with my first and last name, but I don't run into constant duplication of myself where I live. (I will note that in my job, I can find 100+ people with the same exact first and last names in the database. A lot.) I think that's pretty much a sweet spot.

It probably boils down to, do you specifically NEED to be easily identified as you in your career and/or if you get arrested? Would it be safer to have the unique name as the middle one and casually go by it without it being your Official Name On The Internet?
posted by jenfullmoon at 4:19 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

Slightly orthogonal but connected: I have a Rare-But-Not-Unique name, and there are a very few other people that I'm aware of who have the same name.

...but nobody ever believes that there's more than one of us, so I am *constantly* getting messages intended for one of the other ones, and very very often people refuse to believe I'm not the right person. They straight-up refuse to believe me when I say "I'm not the right XYZ, make sure you're typing the address correctly because I'm not a banker".

"Yes, you are definitely a banker there's no way I would have made a mistake typing and obviously banks use GMail addresses not their own domain name, so here's my Croatian drivers license along with a scan of my passport and banking info."

So, I guess I'm saying beware if your name ends up being not quite unique enough?
posted by aramaic at 4:27 PM on March 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

One thing I wouldn't have expected: I own my version of ""- and it seems that I get email meant for every other person with that initial+last name combo

Yep; I'm a fairly uncommon name, and own; at least 2 other versions of me occasionally misaddress order confirmations and what-not as Which end up in my mailbox because dots don't matter in Gmail addresses. I assume most of these are data-entry mistakes -- they meant to pick from a drop-down list but missed, that kind of thing.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 5:17 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have a globally unique name and it has caused me no problems so far, and I’ve taken no particular precautions from a privacy perspective. Fingers crossed it stays a non-issue, I guess!
posted by slateyness at 5:39 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

You can’t count on staying uniquely named. I believe I am currently the only person with my name. But there was another one in the next state over who I believe changed her name when she married. And when you google my name you get a lot of statistics about her college sports career. Because those stats include her height it becomes somewhat obvious when someone meets me and expects me to be.... that person.

But all you need is for one or two people to be named that and then go on to get arrested in Florida or something....
posted by Hypatia at 5:39 PM on March 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have a globally unique name and any minimally motivated person could easily and quickly find all kinds of information about me with just a wisp of a starting point.

Yep, mine is almost like this. There was one other person with my first/last name combination when I was born (this is my given name), she died before I was 20 and now there is one other person with my first/last name combo. It's weird, even a little weirder than global uniqueness because people are SURE I am either me or one of the other ones. I use my fairly unusual but not unique first name as my gmail address as well as my handle here and I got email for ALL THE JESSAMYNS enough so I have a canned reply I send people. You can basically stalk me back through the entire history of the internet. I don't mind. Most people probably would.

Some things I do like about it:

- firstlast is almost always available as a handle somewhere new
- I can often track down things I said or did in the news from a long time ago because it's basically only me, same with people quoting me in books
- my fairly unusual first name means I have this funny little connection with every other person with my first name and in the days of the early web we kind of all knew each other
posted by jessamyn at 5:40 PM on March 22, 2021 [6 favorites]

Globally unique here too. It's got its downsides (dumb things I said in college, property ownership records making my address easy public knowledge, political contribution records) but I could've bailed out when I got married to a guy with a more common last name, and I didn't; it's fun sometimes too. I certainly think twice before saying things that will be linked to my name these days though, especially since I had kids.
posted by february at 5:48 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

My wife has a pretty unique first name. She is always having to correct people on the pronunciation. Always. She gets very tired of it. Then, there are the mis-spellings on everything from junk mail to legal documents. As I said, she gets tired of having to correct people, and then explain to them where the name came from.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:53 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I want to echo Hypatia here. Just because it would be unique now doesn't mean it will stay name combination was particular to only me ... and technically it still is.

But, someone posted a whole SLEW of moderately-badly-written erotica on their website where the heroine just happens to share my exact name. When potential employers, old friends, etc Google me, guess what comes up first?

It's not enough of a nuisance that I would change my name or anything, though.
posted by Syllables at 5:58 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

My name is unique as far as I know.

A stalky person (same age as me) sporadically tried to contact me for over 30 years, according to them (they said eventually) due to guilt for being mean to me as a child, and wanting absolution from me. After I left a particular school at 11 years old, I would get occasional phone calls for years, because I was easy to track down via my family name in the phone book. There was the occasional letter addressed to my family which they cheerfully passed on with no understanding at all of why this might be disturbing. (Oh how nice! An old school friend!)

I was incredibly careful to use pseudonyms only during the early years of the internet. Then I decided to put a site up with my name as a domain for professional reasons, that it was ridiculous to live like this. In a matter of weeks I had a message from the same person - very disturbing as it had been years since the last contact so I had thought they’d finally given up but clearly not, in fact I’m pretty sure they had a search alert set up on the name, it was still quite early days online but they were a very technically competent person.

I never use my real name for anything online but companies I’ve worked at have my name in credits for things, my real name and an old address are available now via company registration records, I’m also a charity trustee which is a matter of public record, people make public posts thanking you for things.... it’s very difficult to keep things totally private these days. Not totally impossible perhaps but it adds a difficulty level, and you have to keep explaining why, which is no fun and drags you back into it all.

Additionally it does have a professional effect in some fields if your name is not on credits. I’m on the credits of some major awards given to work I’ve been a very big part of, as pseudonyms, because I use them so much that even people I’ve worked with for quite some time assume that’s my actual name. So I lose a certain name recognition effect there which could present a problem in the future.

I haven’t heard from this person for a decade now, they must have got the message since I’m unfortunately very easy to track down now despite my original efforts. I do believe they were in fact (fairly? I think???) harmless and just misguided. But it might not have been the case and it caused me a lot of stress over the years.

I thought of changing it when I was 18 to something less identifiable and I’ve wished many times over the years that I’d done it then. (Seems a bit pointless now). So I’d think very carefully. Sorry, I know it’s probably not what you want to hear!
It has been interesting reading the stories of my fellow unique snowflakes though :)
posted by tardigrade at 6:16 PM on March 22, 2021 [5 favorites]

N-thing the doxxing issue. My name is unique and I use my real name in some forums. I won an autographed book from an author in 1999 and it still shows up in the first page or two of google results, making me pretty easy to find if someone wanted to.

It bothers me, but what can you do?
posted by tacodave at 6:17 PM on March 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

I have a fairly common first name and a somewhat rare last name. There is a professionally semi famous person with the same name which I appreciate. I also have a decades long stalker. I am the owner of first name /last name and first initial last name on all the major email sites and all the other apps that use those user names.

When proton email came out I went to get my name address combos. It was taken. Turns out it was taken by my stalker. I know that because they started sending out emails about me to places that I was associated with for work and community. Because I was somewhat unique when searched, this person was able to set me up in a way that was hard to combat.

If you have a unique name, the worry is not just you going Florida man, it is also someone maliciously impersonating you.

Also, I have several names that I use that my friends and I have used for decades. Think a name I would give a rent a cop if busted being drunk and dumb while a kid. Over time some of those names have become attached to me on some of the sites that claim to list all your relatives, places you have lived and goes by other names sites.

As a name in and of itself, my name is fine. It is the internet and privacy thing that can be an issue.

I do wonder how you will be affected by the change if your current name is already established on the internet. If you change your name in the US, it usually requires publication. That will be a point that could link the two and be self doxxing.
posted by AugustWest at 6:58 PM on March 22, 2021 [2 favorites]

I never thought about choosing this, but I have a unique name , semi-common first + all people with my last name are at most 4th cousins.

You google me, you get me, which I guess means my students could find the bad poetry I put in my university’s online blog in 1999. I’ve never had problems.

However, my brother is one of 2, and so when you google him, you get our fourth cousin’s drug charges. He’s changed his professional name accordingly. Especially because the other guy is the same general age, look, and from the same location.
posted by Valancy Rachel at 7:11 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have a globally unique name too; in fact, I show up as the top few entries on google searches (on an anonymized browser at least) for my last name.

It's not a big deal. I have a somewhat public-facing occupation, and in that respect it's been helpful.
posted by mr_roboto at 7:26 PM on March 22, 2021

Nothing that it's nice always being able to get my name at online services that are name based and that my public persona that I want potential employers to be able to find is right there in the search results with no question whether it was me or not. And also nthing that it means that anything you do under your legal name is easily searchable. There's some stuff that you can find if you dig deeply enough on me that will raise some eyebrows at certain employers. I'm a privileged, well off white guy and can just shrug off that if it happens. If I were not so privileged, I might feel very differently about that. The vast majority of that stuff was two decades ago in my college years and you're presumably past your youthful indescretion..
posted by Candleman at 8:31 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

I have a pretty unique name (crossed cultures, plus an unusual first name) and I don't find it bothers me. Google results for my name are actually me, and I'm always conscious of whether I'm participating anonymously, pseudonymously, or nymously when online, but I do all three.

Seconding this - especially when I was younger, I appreciate that it made me think a bit about what I was doing. That said, I do really like being globally unique - enough so that it was one of my criteria for choosing a name for my child. It means that anything you find when you google me is really me, and I like that firstnamelastname is always available as a username. It probably also helps that I was in academia briefly, so most of the initial google results are professional, rather than the political contributions or property records that show up later.

It's worth mentioning that when you google my mom, who is also globally unique (but whose first and last name are each more common than mine), you get exactly two google results that are about her: her Facebook profile and one of those spokeo-type sites that has her home phone number (but not address). All the other results match either the first or last name but not both. So it is possible to reap the benefits of uniqueness (in terms of usernames etc) but not the costs (in terms of google results), if you're careful about how you use your name online.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 8:54 PM on March 22, 2021 [1 favorite]

other than scoring first dibs on an email address, i don't particularly enjoy having a unique name (the name is regionally common, the spelling extremely not), so for me, i've been obsessed with having multiple handles across my online life. it's helped that in exchange for the unique birth name my family culture of assigning another daily name regardless meant i have a very common name to go around with, but because it's not official if I sign up for anything requiring a credit card detail, it's linked. The best I can hope for is I'm building two footprints (that's easily linked with cursory investigation), so my full name online profile is fairly professional and work-appropriate, and (unfortunately for my tastes) in rather exposed/public career tracks.
posted by cendawanita at 9:52 PM on March 22, 2021

It really surprises me that someone would chose to have a globally unique name, since I don't enjoy it at all. Like others above I've dealt with stalkers, even before the internet became what it is today. For that reason my email adresses are never the obvious firstnamelastname varieties. I've tried to introduce various nicknames, but they have never stuck, and I haven't changed the name because my parents would be hurt. And I'm really glad I was young before the internet! My kids manage their online presence very strictly, and they are doing fine, but it feels like an extra pressure to me.
It also bothers me that no-one can spell or pronounce my name, and that they make assumptions about me based on what they think it is, rather than what it is (it is similar to the name of a very wealthy family). This often results in me not receiving mail, because people write random names based on what they think they hear. As is almost every week in the first part of every semester of teaching.
Since you are in charge, make sure your name can be pronounced in major languages, like English, Spanish and Chinese, and maybe French. You never know when that will be a good thing.
posted by mumimor at 2:05 AM on March 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Another globally unique name here. Well, I think there’s one other person on the other side of the world but I appear to have drowned them out of search engine results a couple of decades ago, being much busier online than them. Sorry!

Mostly I like it - it’s just useful and interesting to be able to find where you’re mentioned on the internet. I can get firstnamelastname account names on services when I want.

Some places, like here, I use a pseudonym but not as a super sekrit identity - I might still link to my website or Twitter account for example - but just for a slight layer of not-immediately-googlable.

However, the past year or two I’ve been thinking how fortunate and privileged I’ve been that my visibility online, under my own name, hasn’t been a major problem so far. Having a common name wouldn’t prevent doxxing, stalking, impersonations, etc, but it would be a little less obvious.
posted by fabius at 6:34 AM on March 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

When I was 18 I legally changed the spelling of my first name to be globally unique (well, for a decade or so, and I'm not convinced the people who use the name use it as their legal name) except for one acronym used in libraries. This was around 1995. It had some good sides in that later when I was in college, published papers that I named in the authors field were easily searchable and easily attributable to actually being me, rather than name fraud as I have a relatively common last name. This was before social media got popular.

Searching for that name is a bit poisoned by the very common last and an assumption of my first name being misspelled or unimportant to the search. However, searching for "First" Last removes that, and gets relevant information - heck, I just tried, and am reminded that I was on my college water polo team for 1 season (got mentioned in the school paper). Back in 1995. Amusingly no pictures, although 15 years ago that wasn't true.

Downsides were despite it being in theory easy to pronounce correctly, few did on first read. And there's the people who intentionally mispronounced it for years (you know the sort). Obviously it would be very easy for a stalker to keep track of me than it would be to follow a John Smith, but I haven't had a stalker that I know of.

Further downsides is that anything and everything that I've put online in my name is out there. And relatively easily findable still because of the uniqueness of the name. Fortunately I've never put out anything that's been damaging, but as a bit of a private person

Since then I've been married, and took my wife's last name (much less common than my previous one) and took a common noun in English as my name (long story: TLDR - related to how we met). I do believe this is another (currently) globally unique first name, although there are a few who have a name that's a homonym of mine from a non-English language with a drastically different spelling.

Searching for my name (without even needing the quotes) gets pretty relevant results quickly because of the much less common last name.

Just doing a search right now, everything points to me. There's google images of me doing my hobby; images of my wife (but not our kids). It's weird to know that I could go to a job interview, and they might ask, unprompted, about my hobby. Or about my wife's (somewhat controversial) job. That said, I don't really have a lot of skeletons, and excluding my hobby (which involves competition and course records, etc) and my wife's local fame, there's little that makes it online attached to my name. So it's not like someone's getting a giant picture of me. But what they do find, they would 100% know is about me.

I think of a friend I had in high school, and randomly searching, his name isn't as unique as I'd have thought prior to searching. There's someone who's about his age who killed someone. The photo is such that I can't tell if it is, or isn't him. Things like this (both the murder, and confusion if ththe result is me or not) don't happen with my name, even without a photo.

I guess I'm one of the lucky ones with a unique name who never had a stalker. I'm also white, cis-male, tall, college educated - so yeah, I've got a lot of privilege to insulate me from potential griefers.
posted by nobeagle at 7:07 AM on March 23, 2021 [1 favorite]

Sort of left field item that I thought of - there has been research done that shows people are less likely to consider job applicants with unusual names. I expect there is a bit of that in a lot of pockets of society where you'll be anonymously reviewed or evaluated. In some cases, being unique will make you more memorable, but in others, the unfamiliar element of being unique can disadvantage you. It's probably hard to quantify, but worth knowing before proceeding.
posted by amycup at 11:39 AM on March 23, 2021

My name is unique and nobody can pronounce it. I am so tired of spelling it to people - literally every person I have ever met, in my entire life, has asked me to spell it. And then every single one will ask me the same questions (where is it from, what does it mean, is it a family name, etc). It's very annoying and I became so tired of it that I use a common variant instead. Now I only have to do that at the doctor's, DMV, etc.

Maybe it's different if you chose it yourself, I don't know.
posted by epanalepsis at 12:19 PM on March 23, 2021 [3 favorites]

So I have a name (that is my original name) that doesn’t seem like it would be that uncommon, but thus far I have been able to find maybe 2 or 3 other people in the US with the exact same name, and there is one person who is one letter different. There is also at least one with an alternate, more common spelling of my first name. Yes I search for myself a lot.

I started using the internet in the mid-90s and, being in public media at the time, always assumed anything I did or said online would follow me forever, so I have behaved accordingly and pretty aggressively cultivated my real-name online presence. And as others said, moving into academia later meant that being easy to google was an overall positive. I am aware I am trivially easy to stalk should someone be so inclined, but I guess on balance I like being almost unique.

I don’t like the fact that deciding to use the internet was essentially agreeing to never have real privacy, but because I made the choice so long ago I have made my peace with it. If I was going from feeling relatively anonymous to all of a sudden being very identifiable, I might feel differently.
posted by DiscourseMarker at 5:07 PM on March 23, 2021

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