What’s in a Screen Name?
When you joined an online service in the days of online past, you received an account name mechanically generated by a computer. And this computer was quite proud of itself for calling you 71303,3713. After all, the computers had no problem remembering such a splendid name — why should you?
America Online was created by humans and designed for humans. As a direct result, you (a human) get to choose the name you use on America Online. You can be yourself if you want: Annie, Paul, or Svetlana. Of course, you can also be a little more daring and become Homeschooler, Monojerrie, or a strapping Norseman like Thor Dreksskin. Within the bounds of good taste, the choice is up to you.
Every America Online account includes space for seven screen names: one primary plus six others. The primary name is the one you choose when you first joined America Online. This name is special — kind of like your permanent file in school (the mysterious record always spoken of in dark, terrifying phrases such as “you realize that this incident will go into your permanent file”). Like the legendary file, the primary name is permanent — you can never change it, no matter how much you want to. However, the other six names can come and go as you please.
America Online places only a couple of limits on screen names. Screen names must be between 3 and 16 characters long and must start with a letter. After the required first letter, you can use letters, numbers, and spaces to create your online identity. Also, the assembled numbers and letters can’t cross the line into what Miss Manners might call “poor taste.”
Here’s a quick overview of the technical rules governing AOL screen names:
You can have seven screen names in your account — one primary screen name and six others.
The primary screen name is permanent; you can’t ever change it. But you can create and delete the other six screen names at your whim.
By default, only the primary screen name can make new screen names and adjust Parental Controls. If you want to give that ability to other screen names in your account, you can do so by making the new name a master screen name.
Choose your primary name carefully; it’s yours forever.
Screen names are 3 to 16 characters long, start with a letter, and contain any combination of letters, numbers, and spaces your imagination can dream up (within the bounds of good taste, that is).
Now be nice!
A creative screen name is your tool for carving out a unique identity in the world of America Online. You’re supposed to be creative — that’s the whole point. However, a subtle line separates creative and obnoxious.
Here’s a simple guideline for creating a good screen name: Make it as creative as you want, but if you blush at the idea of explaining it to your children, parents, spouse, or significant other, your screen name is probably beyond the bounds of good taste.
One final thought about choosing a screen name: Make it appropriate. A screen name for official business e-mail looks a lot different from one for a character in the Free Form Role Playing (keyword People Games) area. If you want to be BoogerDggr in the chat rooms, that’s your choice, but your new e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org) may look a little funny on a business card.
Deleting an old screen name
Even screen names reach the end of their usefulness. When that time comes for the screen names in your account, delete them and go on about your business. Just follow these steps to delete a screen name:
1. Sign on to America Online with your primary screen name or a master screen name. If you don’t really care about master screen names, that’s fine, too — just barrel ahead with your primary screen name.
2. After connecting, choose Settings –> Screen Names from the toolbar (or use keyword Names). The Create or Delete Screen Names dialog box appears.
3. Click the Delete a Screen Name option in the dialog box. The Delete a Screen Name dialog box pops up.
4. When America Online displays the aptly named Are You Sure? dialog box, take a deep breath and click Continue. The Delete a Screen Name dialog box appears, looking just the tiniest bit somber in its fateful duties.
5. Click the screen name you want to delete and then click Delete. Be darn sure that you want to delete this screen name before clicking the Delete button. Although you can theoretically restore deleted screen names, it’s an inexact science. Translated into English, restoring a deleted screen name is up to the impish whims of the America Online computers. Maybe they’ll let you restore the name, and then again, maybe they won’t.
6. After doing the dirty deed, America Online issues the brief, generic obituary.
You can’t delete the primary screen name. Also, any master screen name on your account can delete (and create) other screen name.