I don’t attribute this to an alignment of stars, to the mercy of the web gods and goddesses, or even to OKC’s algorithm, which supposedly uses questions such as “What’s worse, book burning or flag burning? Instead, I chalk up my positive online dating experiences -- which, with the exception of a brazen date who rudely shushed fellow theatergoers (referred to amongst my friends henceforth as “the shusher”), has been without horror stories -- to my careful evaluation of a potential match’s username before arranging a date.
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It does, however, illuminate broader trends about how our online language use has changed over time.
“Females tend to include more personal attributes in their usernames,” Herring says.
For OKC, I chose my initials punctuated by underscores, and tended to prefer equally minimalistic, cryptic self-representations, as opposed to, say, song lyrics or anything with “Brooklyn” affixed to it.
I was curious about whether my tendency to critique usernames more harshly than photos was universal, and decided to speak with a linguist about whether or not the language of our online dating avatars says something about who we are.
This includes subbing in "1"s for "i"s, but also riffs on the AOL chatroom trope of suffixing a username with "4u".
Although 53 percent of usernames in Herring's survey included a number, very few of the numbers seemed to have personal meaning.
“Moreover, the kinds of attributes they mention differ from those mentioned by men.” While "cuddly," "silly," "sweet," and "faithful" were all used in the women’s profiles she surveyed, men gravitated towards "sexy," "cool," "mellow," and "great." According to Herring's survey, usernames on OKCupid are an average of 10.5 characters.
She compared this with the number of characters in usernames from Internet Relay Chat logs she's saved from 1999 -- names on that site were an average of 6.6 characters.
“There’s too much variety in the names to really get a sense of whether one particular one affects incoming messages,” he told me in an email.