Something that has amazed me is how the discussion of whether or not to change your maiden name tends to focus on the legal process of how to do so, potential impact on children, and salary penalties. What I didn't find was any mention of the impact of changing your online identity. So putting aside the ease of finding all of your health and financial records, here are other things that influence the decision to change your name:
- What is your job?
- Where are you in your career?
- How strong is your brand?
- Have you been published?
- Is your name unique?
- Is your planned name unique?
- Is your planned name available on social media properties?
A brief aside. First let me say that few of my records have the same name. Depending on who enters a double first name you end up with countless varieties and problems actually proving with one document what your legal first name is. My driver's license omits my middle name/initial so that the second part of my first name appears to be a middle name. Credit cards combine both first names into one long runon name. Student loans omit the second of my first name altogether and include my middle name. Nurses at doctors' offices give me funny looks when they can't find my health insurance and I start giving them four plus combinations of possible names under which I might have been entered into the system. So, as you can see, for me changing my name actually simplifies this mess. Now let's get back on topic.
When changing your online identity or name look at each combination. What you think your brand is. What your legal name is. And abbreviations of first and middle names you might have been published under.
For me, the combination of part of my first name "Eden" and maiden name "Hensley" is well branded and relatively unique. I've published under the name and I own it on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook. (I stopped using my double first name ages ago to reduce confusion. My full name - all four names - does appear correctly in all of my school records.)
Just changing my last name yields a relatively unique name that is unfortunately well branded by someone else. She owns "Eden Silverstein" on LinkedIn and Facebook. To keep people from getting us confused online, I chose to change my middle name to my maiden name so that my new name will be "Eden Hensley Silverstein."
Changing my name 100% though is not going to be a fun process. I'm not talking about Driver's License or Social Security Card - that's relatively painless. I'm talking about my online presence.
Most usernames are set - unchangeable. That leaves me with a hodge podge. In some cases, I've just created new accounts. In other cases, it's a little more work to create a new account (case in point: Flickr).
If you're changing your name, have you thought about changing it online?
For your convenience should you decide to change your name online, here are the sites I've worked through so far.
Sites where you can change your usernames:
- Facebook - they do warn you that this is a one time change
- LiveJournal - for a $15 fee or 1,500 tokens
- Amazon (RealName attribution can be changed once you have updated bank information)
- Banks - this was surprising, but most welcome as having multiple usernames for managing one's finances is highly annoying (names on debit and credit cards as well as checks can be changed once you have updated your legal name)
Sites where currently you can't change your usernames:
- Alumni Email
- New York Times (they will permit you to change your email and use that instead of your username to log in)
- Flickr (would require you to create a new Yahoo! account)
- Etsy (they recommend you use your real name yet do not provide an option for you to update your username should your real name change)
- AdSense (while you can add new email addresses you can't change the account under which you first signed up)