The SparkPeople Blog

Poll: Are Negative Usernames Helpful or Self-Defeating?

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/17/2013 12:00 PM   :  865 comments   :  26,035 Views

See More: motivation, goal,
The idea for this blog came from a member, and when I saw it I knew it was something I wanted to talk about. It's something I wonder about all the time as I read blog comments on The SparkPeople Blog, answer questions on SparkPeople and interact with the Community. Here was her suggestion:

"So often, when I see some of the usernames members have chosen for themselves, I wonder if they realize that they are reinforcing a negative self-image. Maybe if they read that a positive screen name would help reinforce better self-image, it would be helpful to them."

We talk a lot on SparkPeople about the power of positive thinking. Some people will put a picture of themselves at their goal weight in a prominent place. Others will use rewards to celebrate as they reach weight loss milestones. The idea is that if you are optimistic about your goals and surround yourself with positive thoughts and people, you're much more likely to get to where you're trying to go. The SparkPeople Community is another great example of this. People who are negative and constantly complaining don't usually last long on our site- we're too upbeat for them.

This brings me to the topic of usernames. I think a username can say a lot about someone. Of course there are some people who pick the first thing that pops into their head or something they can easily remember. But others put a great deal of thought into their name and perhaps, how it could impact their progress. That's why I'm always amazed when I see negative and self-deprecating usernames. Some examples include names like FATGIRL, UGLYME and IMSOFAT. (Yes, I made sure none of these members were still on the site before I chose their names.) Are names like that motivational? Would they make you want to work hard to reach your goals?

What about names like NVR2HEALTHY, FORMYGIRLS, FIT4LIFE or NOWIWILL? Don't those names make you feel much better just by reading them? They do for me. They make me believe that these people are going to reach their goals- they are determined and committed. Even if they are struggling, you can tell they are serious about getting healthy, just from their username.

When someone with a username like FATGIRL asks a question on the Message Boards, I always feel a little awkward about how to respond. Do I say "Hi Fatgirl!" when I address their question? Usually I'll just leave their name off of my response, because even if it is their name, I feel bad using it!

What do you think? Am I reading too much into this? Could you see a good reason that someone would pick a negative username? If you have a "negative" username (or did in the past), can you tell us why?

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  • 815
    I was inspired to change my username after reading this article the first time quite a while ago. I prefer this user name. - 4/18/2013   12:02:18 PM
  • 814
    I appreciate your point that this is the name other Sparklers will be using to address you. I might think I have the right to call myself a pejorative, but it might feel very different to have other Sparklers saying, "Hey, UGLY!" - 4/18/2013   11:45:11 AM
  • 813
    One thought on all this ... in your travels, there will be more than enough people in life to put you down. Absolutely NO need to put yourSELF down. Hold your chin up high! - 4/18/2013   11:33:42 AM
  • 812
    I do like that I can change me name when the time is right... say when I am "comfortably portioned".

    This is a great discussion and although I am outnumbered, I love the spirit that has shown through with the comments. - 4/18/2013   11:19:17 AM
  • 811
    It may be reality at the moment, everyone chooses their username for a reason. Fortunately there seems to be an ability to change your username, as I've seen several of my friends here do, to reflect the reality that may change over time. - 4/18/2013   10:48:56 AM
  • 810
    Maybe there should be instructions how to change your user name and keep your points and friends. - 4/18/2013   10:04:09 AM
  • 809
    When I was a child my nicknames my family gave me were...Fatso and Moose. When I graduated from high school I was "mentally fat" and I weight around 100 pounds. What you call yourself or someone else really does have an impact. - 4/18/2013   10:04:00 AM
  • 808
    thank you Jennaaw. - 4/18/2013   9:45:35 AM
  • 807
    If you don't know me, then how can you judge me. There is too much emphasis on a name... Is this a form of bullying? - 4/18/2013   9:31:47 AM
  • 806
    I do not think we should pressure anyone about their usernames unless they are hurtful to others- vulgarity, slurs, you know what I mean. We carefully select our usernames to fit our needs. - 4/18/2013   9:30:42 AM
    Agree 100%. It goes back to the "Labeling" theory taught in many Sociology classes. People can live up, or live down, to expectations. Those with negative names should give some thought to changing it to one which is positive. - 4/18/2013   9:05:34 AM
  • 804
    I agree... the more positive feedback we can give ourselves the more likely we'll be successful. Thanks for sharing :) - 4/18/2013   8:57:21 AM
  • 803
    I agree with you 100%. I look at my username everytime and it helps me to Staystrick. - 4/18/2013   8:44:36 AM
  • 802
    Excellent - thanks. I have thought this also. Names... it is tough for me too. But now I am going to think up a new name - positive and fitting for me instead of just my regular name. Thanks! - 4/18/2013   8:41:10 AM
  • 801
    I would never choose a negative name for myself because that's not the part of me I want to focus on.I like to look at the good, the goal. And I also like to interact with other people. People take us at our own, stated, value and even if *you* change over time, what they've decided about you at first encounter can rarely be changed.

    That being said -

    SparkPeople is here for each of us to use in the way we can benefit the most, so I not only don't care what Other People call themselves, I can see why what looks negative to me can be a positive to someone else.

    I'm reminded, though, of a young man just out of prison who was applying for jobs on-line at the public computers in my library. He'd chosen as his email address. "They may as well know about me right from the start." he told me. "No no no! I told him. Nobody will ever give you that first glance if you call yourself that. If in doubt, just use your own name. that's who you really are. Worry about the definition later" - 4/18/2013   7:02:56 AM
  • 800
    RAWN13 - I think there's truth in what you are saying. There is a "I'm getting real here" quality about a negative name that might be motivating. Maybe we need a name changing ceremony for flipping to a more optimistic view along the way! - 4/18/2013   5:59:06 AM
  • 799
    You've noticed something important here, I think. We all come to this site at different times for different reasons and with different levels of self esteem. I picked tortoise (which I misspelled by accident!) because it represents...going slow to go fast. I knew I'd need patience. I guess it fits, because even in maintenance I still need patience!! LOL - 4/18/2013   5:56:59 AM
  • 798
    I usually wonder, when I see a negative user name, if they are just poking fun at themselves or if they have low self-esteem. Self-deprecating humor can sometimes be a mask for low self-esteem. I am with the blogger, it makes me feel a bit awkward, but also sympathetic. (says the girl with a not-so-creative-username)... oops, was that self-deprecating? LOL - 4/18/2013   5:37:02 AM
  • 797
    @Fatcat65 I don't think this was meant to be a 'pick on negative user name' article, just some people out there happen to be sickly sweet and it bubbles over maybe?
    No I'm not picking on the 'positive name users'. And user names shouldn't need to be policed either, everyone has the right to express themselves as they want, everyone is an individual. . .
    The use of so called 'negative' user names could be there motivation, just like the 'fat' photo. Otherwise you could actually go as far to say that too positive a user name could lead to failure if they inspire to be too thin too fast?
    My own sparkpage starts off with 'I'm fat, there we go I said it!', on the topic of negatives, is this going to set me up for failure? I don't think so, I think it's good to admit it because then you know what you have to aim for. - 4/18/2013   3:43:06 AM
  • 796
    I think that people might start out with them because that's just where they are in their journey. I myself started out with the user name Earthdonna, referencing some old clay pottery round fertility goddesses that were less than flattering looking.. I thank Spark for making changing your username painless.. and changed to one reflecting the psyche and my middle name afterward, which is the name I have now.. I do think I have a lot more positive outlook now. - 4/18/2013   2:51:52 AM
  • 795
    I've seen people change their Spark name to reflect a new (improved) attitude or goal. When you first sign up, you may not have that confidence or outlook.

    I chose my name because I am a physician, my first name starts with B, and my initial goal was to complete a half marathon. Goal achieved! - 4/18/2013   2:21:57 AM
  • 794
    Thank you for this observation. The negative names really make me sad. It is a form of negative self talk and name calling that is hard to watch. But, I also am not one to judge others. I just try to keep my own side of the street positive and uplifted.
    You are so right about negative people not being able to sustain on Sparkpeople. - 4/17/2013   11:09:23 PM
    I may have what some perceive as a negative username, but it's not. Husky refers to the dog that pulls sleds and runs long distances. It's all in the eyes of the user. - 4/17/2013   11:03:01 PM
  • 792
    "Do I say "Hi Fatgirl!" when I address their question?"

    That made me lawl. Personally, that's exactly how I would address them. That's the name they chose. I have to respect that. Perhaps they are the sort of person who gets inspiration by having something to fight against. That's how I am. I do much better if I have someone shouting in my face, a la Jillian Michaels, than if I have someone telling me how awesome I am. If I make a happy, fluffy, screen's not going to serve as motivation to get my tush out of this chair. - 4/17/2013   10:52:16 PM
  • 791
    I agree that we should keep it positive. We are what we say!
    - 4/17/2013   10:30:23 PM
  • 790
    I disagree totally. People can call themselves whatever they want. It has nothing to do with their chance of success. I don't think it's your place to criticize Sparkpeople members. If you work for them you should be encouraging them to stick with the program, not ridiculing the people with negative sounding usernames. Shame on you!

    - 4/17/2013   10:29:29 PM
  • 789
    I agree, negative names is not a good thing. I also tend to stay away from extremely negative personal blogs as well. - 4/17/2013   10:18:08 PM
    definatly negative - 4/17/2013   9:18:08 PM
  • 787
    This is an interesting articul it has me looking at my user name. Have have used this one for years on other groups and chat forms. I feel after I get to gaol weight I will still be Bigbear ohyeah. I do not have to use numbers and it actualy reads as real words. Do not think it is too negitive. More like a big bear hug! - 4/17/2013   9:06:31 PM
  • 786
    I recently changed my name from loser20in10 to lovingtorun because I thought the loser part had a negative connotation and didn't want that to be part of me. So I agree. - 4/17/2013   9:03:36 PM
  • 785
    I agree that negative usernames say something about the user, just like all usernames do- they show where we were at the time we named ourselves. I think the issue may be more that other sparkers feel uncomfortable (as said in the blog) with seeing these names, replying directly to these names- maybe because it holds a mirror to that part of us we all still have. I am a team leader in 2 groups, one of which is a very large official city group so I see a lot of names, and sure I see some "negative" and some positive, but I see posts by all of them, I see progress by all of them. So really I think the issue is not the name, the issue is we all have baggage, we all came here for a reason and seeing those names is maybe like seeing your tracker go up or your scale stand still. But maybe for those people that name motivates them, or maybe they haven't thought anything of it for years. I made my username in 2007 and while I type it in daily, I don't give it a second thought because it isn't me- the blogs, the trackers, the sweat pouring off of me at my Crossfit box- that tells my story. A name is just a name, don't let it derail you, especially if it isn't your's. - 4/17/2013   9:03:34 PM
  • 784
    I have thought about what the name is saying. sometimes I have asked why thye have chosn that name.
    I am right with you that the name should say something positive, why or how they are on this journey. or at the very least not negitive. - 4/17/2013   8:20:04 PM
  • 783
    Never thought much about it until right now. Maybe those negative names are to be a reminder of where they do NOT want to be? Maybe it is a self-esteem issue? Surely, I would not like to call someone by a negative name. Understandable if one chooses not to use their real name (I don't), but a fanciful name can be fun... wish I'd thought of that... :-) - 4/17/2013   7:49:30 PM
  • 782
    I don't know if everyone knows they can change their username. I ran across it by accident one day going through my options (trying to figure out how to change my goal weight). I decided to change my name just a little so it was easier to type on the iPad.

    But I can understand a little where people are coming from. I didn't like my given name until I was 37 years old, and then I embraced it. I think rather than being related to lack of motivation, negative labels stem from a common cause of low self esteem. Other people are just cautious about having their real name out here on the internet.

    Or they may use that label for the same reason I keep my pictures of me at my heaviest, as a reminder. I just talked to someone yesterday that said "I'll keep this name to give hope to people just starting." There is debate about whether "toward" or "away" motivation is stronger or better. But when I see those labels I just remember that at least they are here. - 4/17/2013   6:28:19 PM
    Absolutely! I changed my username to reflect my love of running - now whenever I log in, I'm already thinking about how what I do today is going to make me even better at something I love doing! - 4/17/2013   6:15:44 PM
  • 780
    I think a positive name is better, we are trying to start a new healthy lifestyle and need all the encouragement we can get, I would be mortified if someone called me Fat-Girl, so why would I use a name that is a put down to me, and all that I stand for, there is more to me than just my weight! - 4/17/2013   5:48:09 PM
  • 779
    I sometimes wonder about that too . . . I would rather have a name that motivates me rather than one that tears my self-image down! That being said, some people don't take it that seriously, kind of poking fun at themselves in a light-hearted way. So I try not to read too much into it myself. (btw - for the record, my username has nothing to do with my opinion of myself, it's the name of my favorite cat!) - 4/17/2013   5:43:36 PM
  • 778
    I think it's good to be positive. If you have a user name like "IMSODISGUSTING" then every time you log in you have to type that. And you're not just reinforcing that for yourself, you're also forcing everyone who ever interacts with you to think of you as disgusting.

    I don't think you should call yourself names you wouldn't call someone else. To their face. And if you're the kind of person who tells other people that they're disgusting, then you have bigger problems than your weight. - 4/17/2013   5:40:43 PM
  • 777
    Fortunately, I haven't noticed any negative use names, but I'm sure there are some. I think it would reflect how the person feels about themselves and in the long run, it would be detrimental to them. - 4/17/2013   5:17:34 PM
    I think negative names reflect what we think about ourselves...I never even let my children call each other "stupid". When we have negative perceptions of ourselves we have to work hard to change that...we may need a little help with it, but our usernames should reflect something positve about ourselves our where we are headed. - 4/17/2013   4:56:42 PM
  • 775
    I never thought of that before. I myself did not use a negative username but could not imagine using one like Fatgirl. Why would someone put themself down like that? What a great blog. - 4/17/2013   4:33:43 PM
  • 774
    One should try to never put themselves down, but always lift them self up. - 4/17/2013   4:19:42 PM
    Named myself for where I want to be (when I get there) forever. - 4/17/2013   4:16:47 PM
  • 772
    yeah, I don't get the negative username. why would you do that to yourself? Every time you log in here, you have to type in that negative name. And then, there it is, looming in the left hand corner. Pick a name that is gonna empower you!! When it came time to pick my username, all I had to do is think about what is my passion? What inspires me to move? What will keep me motivated? Never once, when I was filling out the initial info. to get on here, did I consider using a negative username. If you type in that negative username enough, eventually you are going to start believing it, and hence, quitting. - 4/17/2013   3:54:06 PM
  • 771
    My first name here had more to do with a goal (maintaining). After a while, I changed it to be more personal (incorporating my name) but also, while completely uninventive 'spark' in my screen name (for Spark People!) expresses my desire to spark others and be sparked, too. - 4/17/2013   3:50:12 PM
  • 770
    For me, the negative name reminds me of where I have been and where I never want to be again. Just beause the username may be sound bad to you does not mean that I view myself negatively or am giving myself permission to go back to my old ways.

    Just a view from a negative named member. - 4/17/2013   3:46:17 PM
  • 769
    I completely agree. And it is good to know that as our journey evolves, we can change our username. I'll like to see an article about that because I know of spark friends who don't realize they can change their name. I started with MOM2PIPER and now I am BLESSED2BEME as I found out about becoming who I was meant to be! - 4/17/2013   3:26:00 PM
  • 768
    I had also wondered about some of the negative names. I didn't want to use my own name, so I choce something which shows one side of me. I love flowers of all kinds, Working in them and looking at them is calming to me. So this may not be uplifting and motivational to some, but it is to me. By getting healthier and more able to do the necessary gardening, I will be able to enjoy spending more time in my flowers. I like anything that gives a positive feeling. - 4/17/2013   3:11:50 PM
  • 767
    funny that I should see this ...I started out with the name Chubzee..and Someone brought it to my attention .that perhaps the name I had chosen was not such a good one. I had really never thought about it ..until then... Thanks. to whoever you were . Now I'm a dvia ( Diva ) LOL - 4/17/2013   3:06:15 PM
  • 766
    I have often wondered about the negative user names, since this is such a powerful positive site.
    Mind is the 1st letter of my first, middle and last name then what state I live in not real creative but its not negative. - 4/17/2013   3:03:26 PM

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