What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.
Romeo and Juliet
I selected this quote for two reasons — no, make that three: 1) I’m going to talk about names and identities, and 2) it mentions plants, which connects to that topic, and 3) I just really like Shakespeare.
What Juliet, in all her 13 year old pining, means is that even if we called a rose a “bumbleyark,” its fundamental characteristics would not differ. It would still look, smell, and feel the same.
So! That said, it’s time to Google myself!
To those of you who don’t know me well, I’ve technically got two names: what’s referred to as a dead (legal) name and my name. Someday they’ll match, but that legal process isn’t something I can necessarily afford right now. Until then, I’m an outlaw. 😎
Both times, I got a name that means the same damn Christmas shrub, but hey, at least I made it slightly more difficult for people to sing carols at me. That…wasn’t the goal though; the goal was an attempt at a more gender-neutral name.
I started out by Googling my name, Hollin [Last Name], and I was pleased to see a few results. There’s my Facebook profile, a couple links to my Pinterest profile (feel free to follow me, I’m proud of it, and apparently not ashamed of self-promotion). To my disappointment, however, the search only pulls from a character board and my board for tattoo ideas, and not my carefully cultivated recipe boards. Rude.
There’s also a result for my Goodreads page, which you’re also welcome to follow.
There’s not a lot of results, but that’s to be expected. I only named myself a little over a year ago, and I’ve only recently been publicly out with it.
As for my legal name, there were quite a few more results.
My LinkedIn page is the first result, and the profile picture from that page is the only (accurate) image result that comes up. And it’s a work photo.
The Facebook profile for Hollin also gets displayed, but it’s a dead link because I finally remember to change the URL. There’s a very blank Google+ page that comes up too. Does anyone actually use Google+, or did we all just nod and go “Okay, cool” when that was introduced and just kept using literally every other feature except that one?
One of the coolest things about Googling my dead-name is that apparently someone came up with a character that has the exact same name as I did. Chad better back off, man.
Page 2 of the Google results reveals some more results. There’s some award notifications from Chadron State, a connection to Tenth Street Miscellany, my work schedule for my on-campus job, and that’s about it, except for one rather creepy Whitepages link that I might see about getting taken down.
My favorite result from Googling my dead-name though, has to be an article from my high school newspaper. Ah, memories.
I take comfort in the fact that I’d need to be around for anyone to be able to identify me in that photograph.
Apparently I was a Junior at the time, and I had some wise words to share:
[I’m taking this class so] I can get the computer credit out of the way so that I can do other things; like arts and crafts classes.
Five years or so ago me had their priorities in order, lemme tell ya.
So, except for a slightly cringe-y reminder of where I went to high school, my search results reveal nothing damning nor overtly embarrassing. Which is good. I’m a rather private person, and at the same time I participate under a handful of screen-names, which are not directly linked to my offline identity.
But my direct online identity does say a few things about me: I was good in school and I had a job. I like reading fiction, and I can write. I’m either a super involved ally or I myself am LGBTQ+. I really like pasta, and I’m into the DIY-crafty stuff. These are all little snippets that come from multiple online presences, but work together to build a fairly accurate composite image.
That’s what, I think, is both interesting and often forgotten about online identities; in the real world, we often display different facets of our identities depending on context. Our online identities, however, have one important distinction: multiple facets can be viewed at once for a better composite identity. For example, my classmates with whom I have no weekend interactions with have little knowledge of how I behave during those times, or my coworkers might not know what I’m like outside of the workplace context — but online identities diminish and can even erase that context; they’re instantly accessible and, if one isn’t careful, accessible to anyone.
It’s a fascinating concept to consider and to discuss.