Sunday, 11 May 2014

Baby's First Email Address

It's an old Mac computer.

"We should hang out soon!"
"We totally should! What's your email address?"
"I don't have email."

Wait, what?

My first response was "How do you email people?" but Twitter pointed out that not having email also locks you out of internet banking, Facebook, online booking, applying for jobs… Despite this, I think it's a charming that they're in their twenties and manage to get by without it, actually writing letters to friends, as a means of communication. (Although, their partner uses [LastName], so maybe they cheat a little.)

I was pushed into using the internet. I remember being shown, and told that I could search for anything in the world. I got my first email address shortly after. I don't remember what it was - possibly, but I couldn't tell you for sure. (Don't tell me in the comments, old friends, I don't want to know.)

I asked Twitter what their first email address was:

These email addresses are awful, but I think it's wonderful that they existed, and that they're forgotten. It allowed teens to express themselves in some small way, and throw off that identity when it no longer fit or was appropriate.

I think kids should have the freedom to do what they like online, without it coming back to haunt them. I'm not talking about cyber bulling, or weird porn: I mean that you wouldn't want anyone who googled you finding out how long you've spent on the My Little Pony forums either, and screen names and their associated email addresses can be a wonderful way of trying out identities and interests.

There are consequences to having a ridiculous email as an adult.

I found out recently that WINZ will cut your jobseekers benefit by up to 50% if you have an "unprofessional" email address and are resistant to changing it. I can see their reasoning, but that's pretty punitive. Picking out a "real" email address was an important step in growing up for me - but I still got my first job and accepted into university with whatever ridiculous handle I was using at the time.

Kids today don't necessarily have automatic privacy that we enjoyed: most babies I know are all over instagram.

One of the people in this picture gave me permission to post it online - guess which.

This story on Slate is from parents who take their kid's anonymity seriously - really seriously.

The process started in earnest as we were selecting her name. We’d narrowed the list down to a few alternatives and ran each (and their variants) through domain and keyword searches to see what was available. Next, we crawled through Google to see what content had been posted with those name combinations, and we also looked to see if a Gmail address was open.
With her name decided, we spent several hours registering her URL and a vast array of social media sites. All of that tied back to a single email account, which would act as a primary access key. We listed my permanent email address as a secondary—just as you’d fill out financial paperwork for a minor at a bank. We built a password management system for her to store all of her login information.
On the day of her birth, our daughter already had accounts at Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and even Github. And to this day, we’ve never posted any content.

I have to admire how much they're over thinking this (and the assumption we'll be using Twitter and Gmail forever). I hope their kid turns eleven and registers the 2020s equivalent of and has a wonderful time messing around on the internet, just like I did. I also changed my name by deed poll in my early twenties. (My father's never been in my life, so I switched to my grandmother's maiden name instead. She was a wonderful influence in my early life, and the name was lost when she married: now I'm the only Rayner around. Plus it alliterates wonderfully.) If the kid changes its name, all the parent's hard work will be undone - or done - for them.

I kind of miss all my friends having ridiculous email addresses. It was good practise for adult life. Tell me in the comments: if you had to pick a new email address tomorrow, what would it be? And was your first email address as bad as mine?

1 comment:

  1. Confession: I have already registered a gmail address that will come in use if I marry my boyfriend and change my surname. His surname more common than mine, so I wanted it just in case. Good thing I did because first.hislast was already taken!