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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