There have been a lot of jokes made over the past few years about people feeling a strong identification with one ethnic group or gender. Frankly, some of the jokes were quite humorous in expressing how an individual’s choice of identification was allowed to eclipse the reality of actual gender, race or–as the jokes took on a life of their own–alternative species. It has made me think about how people like to describe themselves through nicknames, nom de guerres, handles, pseudonyms and digital identities.
I was reminded of this train of thought recently when a member asked what was allowable for usernames for member log in to the Network website and I responded with a little humor that anything decent was OK, but that I’d rather not ask the ladies in the office to enter obscene or scatological references as usernames. We shared a good laugh and that was the end of it.
I was thinking about that conversation later and began pondering assumed identities that show up in email addresses and online nicknames. I’m not a big fan of “Killer,” “Assassin,” “Hit Man,” “Slayer,” “Executioner” or “Desperado” coupled with a picture of a scope reticle superimposed over a human head or a bloody knife for an icon. We’re the victims of an entertainment industry that, for decades, has been hard at work creating entertainment that apparently aims to create sympathy for murderers, rapists, sadistic abusers and people who commit offenses against their fellow human beings. And we’ve all fallen for it. Some of us have fallen worse than others because we are repeating the ideas and images taught us by TV, movies and books.
Reacting to our ever-decreasing personal freedoms, too many armed citizens go over the top and much like adolescents, act out through what seems a harmless, humorous identification with Tarantino-type movie characters portraying conscienceless killers, names that echo some other evil fictional personage or monikers that sound like they ought to be names used by players of violent games like Grand Theft Auto or Resident Evil. That’s not the way I want the world to view me as an example of an American armed citizen.
I’m reminded of the response to “It is all just harmless fun,” that counters, “Until it isn’t.” Applied to digital identities assumed by real-life armed citizens, I guess it’s all fun until we find it is all but impossible to convince fellow citizens that owning guns for personal defense is a fundamental human right, not a harbinger of violence not yet enacted.
The next time you need to make up a handle for a new email or an electronic user account think about how you want to be identified. If you wouldn’t testify in court that it fairly represented the man or woman you are, don’t write it down in the username field.
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