It seems like a lot (>80%) of users on here have a username or handle that isn't their real name.

Do we encourage people to use a username rather than their real life name?

I personally didn't think it was a big deal when I signed up, but I'm curious if this is a kind of unspoken expectation on the site. Anonymity certainly is useful in encouraging fair and open discussion, but it may also make it easier to attack a person individually.

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    $\begingroup$ About 4% of our users don't even have a name. they are simply using the default names given by the site : User followed by numbers. $\endgroup$
    – Vincent
    Nov 2 '17 at 15:05
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    $\begingroup$ I have no opinion on the subject ;-) $\endgroup$
    – James
    Nov 2 '17 at 19:37
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    $\begingroup$ I'm masquerading as a cluster of archaic Achaeans so I guess my chiton is showing on this one... $\endgroup$
    – akaioi
    Nov 3 '17 at 3:51

You can choose whichever name you feel fits you as long as you don't break any rules like Be nice.

As far as I know nobody encourages people to use their real name and nobody encourages people to use an imaginary username. That's about it. There are no rules and no encouragement for either side.

You should just do what you feel is right for you. If you don't have a problem with using your real name then that's fine. If, on the other hand, you feel better with an imaginary name, then by all means - use that one.

I, for example, prefer some measure of anonimity and chose not to use my real name. So far nobody has complained.

But there are a lot of people who (at least seem to) use their real names. Sometimes the first name, sometimes the last name, sometimes both, sometimes abbreviations, ...

Choose whatever you feel comfortable with.

Anonymity certainly is useful in encouraging fair and open discussion, but it may also make it easier to attack a person individually.

What we want is to have fair and open discussions. If someone resorts to individual attacks we politely refer that person to Be nice. and flag the message for moderator attention. Be nice. That's the only real rule about behaviour in discussions on the site and that one is not only encouraged, it is enforced by the whole community and in special occasions by moderators.

If someone fails to be nice because they think they are anonymous - we don't really want that sort of people here. Your username should therefore not make any difference and I don't see any reason why we should resort to encouraging people to use their real names. It might deter some people who we want on the site and everyone who fails to be nice because this is the internet should search for a forum where they can use their anonymity to attack individuals. That sort of behaviour won't be tolerated here.

In conclusion: No, we don't care whether users use real names or not.

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    $\begingroup$ ...Wait. That's not your real name!? Where's my pitchfork... $\endgroup$
    – Frostfyre
    Nov 2 '17 at 12:08
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    $\begingroup$ Shame on me for hiding my identity from you @Frostfyre... Wait... $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Nov 2 '17 at 12:13

Back when there was only Stack Overflow, there was some gentle encouragement (and example-setting) from Joel Spolsky and Jeff Atwood to use real names. On a site for professional programmers, this was probably seen as a way to help build one's professional reputation. It was never a rule.

Over time the network has grown a lot. People on sites about role-playing games or fiction might prefer creative names. People on sites about sensitive subjects like politics or religion might not want to have their activity turn up in Google searches. People on The Workplace might not want to be seen by their coworkers. People on Parenting might not want to be seen by their relatives. Students on Arqade might not want to reveal just how much time they spend playing games.

Real names are permitted. Pseudonyms are permitted. There's no rule one way or the other, nor (from what I've seen) a strong convention either way. Do what makes you comfortable.

Just a couple caveats:

  • As this answer says, you still have to be nice.

  • Impersonation is against SE rules. Don't pretend to be another real person. (Fictional characters are fine.)

  • If you have accounts on other sites on the network, they're all connected. (Hidden accounts provide only the thinnest of veneers.) You can change your name on different sites, but people can connect the dots. If you want to be anonymous, you pretty much have to do it everywhere on Stack Exchange.


This is basically a generational thing.

The people who were active on the internet pre-Facebook will almost never use their real name, using real names online was not done. I'm of this generation and tend to avoid putting my real name on anything. The usernames had to be unique so you'll see a range of nearly unique handles.

The people who started on the internet via services like Facebook will default to using their real names as that was the culture they were inducted through, they think nothing of casually using real names online. The email address is now the unique factor, not the username.

Beyond that it's a matter of whether your name is your brand and you're (trying to become) known by it etc etc etc. Ultimately it's up to you.

  • $\begingroup$ so true, although, I was converted into using my name by the new digital world :) $\endgroup$
    – Olga
    Nov 2 '17 at 14:03

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