Poll: Are Negative Usernames Helpful or Self-Defeating?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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I've wondered the same thing and glad you addressed this. Thanks. Report
CACUJIN 11/15/2017
Please do not use "Hatesexercise." My eyes betrayed me and read that name as hateSEXercise, which left me wondering what sex-ercise was.

Personally, I am more comfortable seeing a tag like "Fatgirl" then I am seeing a name like "1HotMama." I think the name is not a representation of self-hate but rather self-realization. Report
MARTHA324 11/15/2017
It makes me sad to see the negative names that people choose and I won't respond with "Hi Sadtobefat". To me it seems self defeating. Report
GGRSPARK 11/15/2017
Comment 885- I am so happy you addressed this topic. User names can be a turnoff, or intriguing. Best if it’s descriptive in some way, but negative ones are so very sad. Report
BLONDWUNN 11/15/2017
If you use a negative name you may begin to BELIEVE negative thoughts about yourself. It's important to not become so self-engrossed. So many people have it "worse" if you know what I mean. Look up and out for ideas and inspiration for victories. Report
BECCABOO127 11/15/2017
I think some people like to beat themselves up as they expect that type of treatment from others, or have received that type of treatment in the past. I dislike seeing negative screen names; although, I respect the right of each person to pick their own screen name. Perhaps in time, the person will realize they are worthy of good things, and that they are a worthy person. Hopefully, in time, they will pick a screen name more reflective of the truly good person he/she is. Report
I agree that seeing a positive username has a completely different effect than a negative one! I chose mine because my last name has the word bear in it, puns are awesome, and it reminds me to be terrific! If I went by a negative image it'd probably be Used2BThin and who wants to see that all day? I'm getting fitter and taking control of my life so that I can keep being terrific! Report
DIROB57 11/15/2017
I've wondered about this same thing! I feel like negative user names don't reflect a positive attitude...which likely ends up hurting the user in the long run. I say choose to be positive even if you have a long way to go! Seeing a negative user name every single time you log into Spark is bound to have some affect on a person's attitude. Why drag yourself down....I say keep it positive or at least neutral! Just makes good sense to me.... Report
Usually in teams other members are addressed with their real names, to me a user name is just the first thing that popped in their head. I guess this is the first time it has been brought to my attention that others have trouble with certain user names. I find the excessive happy happy happy out look to be mostly an example of a person lacking in reality and just as hard to deal with as a very downer person, but their name is theirs and chosen by them and that should be respected. Report
I used to go by IMLOCOLINDA and several sparkers commented on the loco part of the name. I was constantly having to explain that I was a locomotive electrician, I was not calling myself crazy. And I wonder why people are so afraid to say they are fat. It is what it is. I think it's like the AA method of admitting you have a problem. I don't like the other euphemisms, I'm a 'big girl'. I don't pay much attention to the spark names. Those you make friends with usually share a first name anyway. Report
I chose the name to help me to accept that I was overweight and I felt I needed reminded that this was the case. My password, however was a constant reminder of where I would like to be and therefore helped to motivate me to work towards that target. So it was a double edged sword and it worked for me. To know where I came from and where I am now and there is always room for improvement. Does that make sense? Report
I've used negative passwords and can state - for me - it was a real downer. HELPME was one I used. The nice thing about the user accounts is the user doesn't have to type it all the time. "HELP ME TO BELIEVE THE TRUTH ABOUT MYSELF---NO MATTER HOW BEAUTIFUL IT IS!" Is a powerful prayer.
I read this blog and the comments and I'm perplexed. I must be much different than the rest of you because I honestly pay no attention to people's screen names. I don't refer to anyone by those because they aren't your name! I find no deep psychological meaning in them and occasionally one will make me laugh but honestly, it seems as if people are reading WAY too much into this. You have to have a login name - choose what you wish. It's not as if it's suddenly inscribed on a birth certificate. I didn't chose mine because "I don't have my own identity". I chose it because it was something that was easy for me to remember. If you don't know me in real life, you don't even know to whom it refers. I'm also glad that non-Americans responded because sometimes we need a reality check. Let's just support each other's goals and struggles and not worry about things that don't matter. Report
I've learned that negative self-talk is really common, and does more damage to your mind than you even know. I'm currently working on recognizing it and removing it from my life, and I feel much better for it. As long as the person isn't self-shaming, and only thinking of it as funny, it wouldn't be a problem. But only that person would know. I LOVE the comment by MSMOSTIMPROVED. Very true :) Report
I deliberately chose a POSITIVE user name. Yes, self-awareness is very important to success. A negative user name suggests that nothing will improve. Report
I say you are over thinking it. Also, you don't know someone else reasoning. It may just be funny to them. Report
I see someone who may be stuck with ideas that they're not worthy nor accepting of their own selves.

Once thing I've learned in the last three years of recovery is that self-kindness and self-compassion and acceptance of self can be learned. I really began making progress in recovery as I practiced these things, even poorly.

Learning to accept ourselves as we are is powerful. If being cruel to my ownself worked, I'd be thin, still married and asleep. Instead, I'm self-aware and I accept how I feel on a given day, usually.

Kindness isn't for strangers or friends or family. It's for our selves.

Buddha wasn't a god. He was a teacher and he learned a lot about what causes suffering and go we can learn to alleviate it. Kindness is one of those things. Report
I agree with you. Some comments talk about how the reader interprets the username.
I worry about how it affects the actual user. When I see someone named LovesChocolate, I wonder why they want to be reminded of chocolate when they are striving to eat less chocolate. Or "hatesexercise" would find it harder to increase their exercise. It seems like these people are their own worst enemies in terms of striving for improved attitudes and healthy lives. I'd encourage them to be their own best cheerleader instead. Report
Some people are motivated by different stimuli! To each is own I say. You have to know the person before you can know if they are motivating themselves or self-hating. Report
Thanks SUEFROMRI. It really does come from a positive place. And I'm fit and happy now, so it worked! Report
I figured I would be on the site a lot and that I would be reading messages addressed to me. I wanted a name that resonated with me...that would give the messages more personal meaning. Obviously I assumed (and rightly so so far) that the messages would be positive. My name is also a reminder that I am getting better every day and that no matter how long it seems to take...I need to keep moving down the right path for me. Report
My username when I first signed up was something along the lines of Loser2014, because I want to lose the weight this year. I can see how it can be seen as self-deprecating and promoting inner negativity because of all the meanings of the word "loser" (Beck, Three Doors Down...think of their songs and it's hard to see that word as a positive thing).

So, I changed it. This one is much more my personality haha, and it is also a small reference to one of my favorite characters in the TV and book series, A Game of Thrones. Report
I think it is how one sees him or herself before starting, not thinking long term. It may give you the kick you need to get started, but detrimental in the long run.

FatGirlRun - I saw your name as positive. I guess because I automatically pictured you running and getting healthy Report
Speak positivity into the universe to improve your success! Report
Very interesting blog. I never thought about it.

My name is from when I used to devise things to play jokes on my friends so they called me "Gadget". It actually came from a cartoon called "Rescue Rangers"... I was told I also look like her and I like her spunk so I kept it.

Gadget is very common so I added the cc to the end.

Yes, I still watch cartoons! Report
I'm torn on this. It wasn't until I said, "I'm the Fat Friend." that I actually took a long hard look at myself and my life and decided I needed to change. That negative pushed me to get started. However, I think if I kept identifying myself as, say, "FatFriend" it could end up backfiring and reinforcing the idea that I have always been and will always be the Fat Friend. On the other hand I didn't put much thought into my user name nor do I think about it much now. I think it simply depends on the person and what's keeping their head in the game, so to speak. Report
It's evident that some people read way too much significance in to screen names. YOU think that it's meaningful, so you're presupposing that everyone else functions the same way. Some of us don't think too much about it; also, some of us do things just because it amuses us.
My name, for example, is the one I use in various forms all over these here interwebz. I initially chose it at some point when some site forced me to choose one, because they didn't allow email addresses as login names.
Feeling particularly evil that morning, I wanted something witchy. You know, that would evoke images of a wicked lady living in a castle on the hill; a lady who shoots fire from her fingertips and controls a legion of evil minions to carry out her nefarious plots. "Beldame" is listed in the thesaurus as a synonym for witch, so I went with it. I should have checked the dictionary, however, because it actually means ugly old hag, or crone.
Ha, ha! Whoops. Report
I think that this is a situation of "To each their own." If someone sees the name "Fatgirl" and it reminds her what she is working towards, that's great! Whatever works for her. I don't think we as other users have any right to judge. I personally would not want a name such as that, but that's my opinion. There's a good reason why I didn't enter it. Not everything works for everyone, and I feel that we should respect that. Report
I chose a name because it represents what I want. It's my reminder that I can do this. I can make this happen for me. Even though I have not lost the full amount of weight. I have continued to push forward. I feel that it should be positive to help me reinforce my goals and my actions. Report
It would be interesting to do a study on this. Compare 100 Spark members with positive user names to 100 with negative user names (all who registered around the same time) and determine which group has been more successful in becoming healthier over the course of time.

It's also interesting to hear the perspective of non-Americans. I had no idea we were alone on the power of positive thinking mantra. I'm a realist, honest to the core. With that said, I still believe as a general rule that seeing something negative in "writing" everyday will promote self-loathing over self-loving. I think people who refer to themselves as fat, ugly or stupid do so because they believe it is what they are (or were.) But from their perspective, although I may not completely relate to this, perhaps they need to see it constantly in order to leave it behind them. Maybe it's the fuel that propels them forward.

Interesting discussion. Report
I really wanted a positive one. I struggle with body image as it is, I didn't need my username saying anything bad to me day in and day out. Report
I have my username as it is because in the past I tried to skip the emotional process that led me to get to this weight. There is a lot that I need to deal with that is from the past and in the present that if I want to change my future, I need to accept it now and figure out what's next. For me it's a way of finally accepting myself for who I am instead of trying to be something else...when I'm ready to reach a new step, I will change my name to reflect that. Report
I think that people chose their name based on how they feel about their identity. I started with "mother" in my username until recently. After years on SP I realized that my identity wasn't tied up in my kids but in who I am. A weight loss / healthy lifestyle journey can change the way you look at yourself but our names express where we started unless we change them at some point to fit who we are now. Report
When I create a username I try to choose something that defines me. I chose my name while I was in college for music and had just left a bad marriage. Singingmaiden seemed perfect. I go by singing_shieldmaiden on other websites. It's a nod to my love for music and my interest in fantasy, particularly Tolkien.

It may be different for other people, but I don't want the negative defining me. Yes, I feel chubby right now. Yes, I'm an emotional eater. But I'd never choose a name like chubby_emotionaleater. Report
I suppose I would fit in on this. My name is not meant to be deprecating toward myself. It's a reminder of where I came from and all the very hard work I did to reach my goal. I also hope that people might see my name and then my picture and think "well, she did it, so can I." Report
Mine is a bit of a double entendre. Obviously, it's an altered spelling of 'energetic', but it also makes me think of having an 'inner jet' driving me to move & having a faster metabolism within. I don't like being a fatgirl and I don't want to call myself that nor give permission to anyone else to. Report
I_CAN_AMY was not only available :-) but it reminds me of how hopeful and determined I felt when I created my sparkpage! Everytime I see it, I remember that I CAN do it! I am I_CAN_AMY! Report
Now this is food for thought! I wonder what my username says about me? Perhaps Evolving-Angel instead of Confused-Angel? Either way I choose to stay positive and continue this journey I have started! Report
I'm always a bit concerned about the ones that are things like 'neilsbaby' or 'for oliver' as if they have no identity of their own, other than their relationship with someone else. I always think 'what about YOU'. I'm not American either, and also find the relentless positive thinking a bit off putting. Report
I so agree with this article! Names are important and they reinforce who we are when we or others use them! Report
I just think that it is different for each individual and hopefully here on spark people no one is judging each other in a negative context. We should be open minded and if we feel like someone is struggling let's give them a boost instead of assuming failure. Report
Interesting blog. Even more interesting, are the comments :) Report
If you understood how the subconscious mind works, you would never choose a negative username. Every time your brains sees words like IAM2FAT, it records this as true and it does its best to make sure you remain too fat. If you choose a a positive name like SLIMCHICK, the same thing happens, the subconscious records this as true and does its best to make sure you are a slim chick. Neutral names like MARYJANE do not impact the subconscious because they do not invoke a mental image. The same applies to spoken words, never say I AM TOO FAT, say instead, I AM NEARING MY GOAL WEIGHT. All of this has been proven by scientific study. Report
I actually thought that maybe they had a sense of humor. Report
A username should represent who you are, who you want to be. Not ugly or fat, or anything like that. My first username was just JHOLT2012...not much too it, because I couldn't think of anything. Now I use Reach4Stars, because I want to reach for the stars, I want to succeed, and I'm not planning on giving up even when I hit goal. Report
My user name JIBBIE49 comes from my grandfather calling me "Little Jibbie-Jabber" when I was a baby, as I started talking at six months. He shortened it to Jibbie as I got bigger. The 49 is the year I was born. So, I think a user name should be about what YOU want it to be. Report
A user named Fatgirl would be quicker to get a friend add from me than say, FRRs_21 or something. I'd be more likely to read Fatgirl's blog, because I would assume she tells it like it is, blunt, honest, and generally more interesting.
But that's just me.

Honestly, half the time I can't read what people pick as their username anyways. Report
i am with most of the others........negative usernames don't support you positively and i really don't think these users are really aware of what they are doing to themselves. A lot of this may stem from other negative people throughout their lives telling them these negative things and that type of mental programming is really hard to get rid of..... i was once there and every now and again i find myself slipping back into that negativity Report
i am with most of the others........negative usernames don't support you positively and i really don't think these users are really aware of what they are doing to themselves. A lot of this may stem from other negative people throughout their lives telling them these negative things and that type of mental programming is really hard to get rid of..... i was once there and every now and again i find myself slipping back into that negativity Report
I think you are right. Because even if they get to their goal their username is always reminding them of a negative aspect and it can bring a person down or they will never stop thinking of themselves in that way. Report
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